No matter the business, quality issues remain a factor. After all, quality impacts all aspects of a business and improving it is a big undertaking. At Cambridge, our method involves a focus on employee genius and continuous improvement.

The problem is in the process, not the individual

Throughout the day, employees track quality issues using a communal iPad. These issues are compiled into a report that is then shared in an open conversation each day with the entire production team. Most issues are presented with a picture and a clarifying description of the problem. Throughout the conversation, there is never a moment of blame or causing shame to an individual for a mistake. Cambridge believes that the process failed the individual. If the proper procedure was in place, then the quality issue would not have occurred. The best part is: the process can be improved.

Quality issues are then archived in order to identify reoccurring issues. Whenever quality issues become repetitive, the process must be evaluated. When this happens, a team of employees steps up to address the issue. Employees volunteer during the quality meeting and come together to find a solution. Rather than a supervisor telling them what they should do in order to fix it, Cambridge believes that those performing the job are the ones who will come up with the best corrective actions. This employee genius will allow for the process to be improved in the most effective way. 

Process improvement in real life 

One example of this was with the orientation of gas train components. There are shutoff valves (SVs) and safety shutoff valves (SSVs) that must be orientated to the correct direction to ensure proper functionality. The SVs and SSVs were configured incorrectly on a few occasions, and there was a significant risk if these components were not correct when shipped out into the field. A team of employees came together to correct this mistake and ensured the process would drive the solution. It was decided that after the gas train was installed, the gas train builder would place orientation indicators on the SV and SSV. Proper orientation now goes through multiple checks ensuring the process will not allow for failure and for an incorrect gas train to make it into the field. 

Making improvement a central idea to culture

Standardized workflows that clarify what must be done help our employees achieve high expectations of a quality product. The perfect people to develop these processes or improve them are those who do it every day by using their employee genius. Open conversations without the fear of punishment allow for all quality issues to be addressed. Cambridge employees understand that there is no shame in making a mistake. Embracing failure and prescribing solutions enriches the lives of our employees and of our valuable customers.

Come and join us

Each morning Cambridge goes over quality issues that had happened the previous day. We discuss what went wrong within the entire organization and share what improvements will be made to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Come and join us for a morning meeting to see this in action!

The Manufacturing Leader Podcast: Restoring Glory and Dignity to Manufacturing with John Kramer and Marc Braun

Podcast by Joe Sullivan of Gorilla76 Marketing
Listen on Gorilla76's website

Would you rather focus on people or profitability in your business?
You can’t have it all.

But maybe you can…

Maybe people and profitability go hand in hand, and each makes the other stronger.

In this episode of The Manufacturing Executive, I talk with John Kramer, Chairman & CEO at Cambridge Air Solutions, 
and Marc Braun, President at Cambridge Air Solutions, about what it means to restore glory and dignity to manufacturing through both culture and business practices.

We also talked about:

How to build a culture that celebrates people.

How profitability fits in with a people-first culture

How to adapt to crises in a way that cares for people and drives business forward.

Extending a Company Culture across Multiple Facilities

When a company decides that their strategic goals and growth plans include the need for additional space – be that office, production or warehousing space – it begs the question: “How are we going to do this?”

To add to the complexity of multi-facility continuity, Covid introduced a unique situation where many companies offered the ability to work from home and plan to incorporate these workspaces in some fashion moving forward. The reality is that a company might operate at four business addresses but have remote workers dialing in from home offices across the country.

The good news is that a spirit of creative and intentional planning with the understanding that everything can be improved upon can make the process seem less daunting.

The operational “How?” starts to get sorted out through interdepartmental organization, communication and infrastructure investment. Planning for leasing, staffing, IT expansion and beyond becomes a beautiful challenge of logistics and operations. As these plans start to formulate, you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and envision of how the success of the expansion will come about.

The less tangible “How?” – the one that deals with extending the essence of the company beyond the original four walls is a little less concrete and arguably harder to plan. At Cambridge, we are proud of the culture of family, teamwork and lean  that we feel throughout our offices, our shop and in our morning meetings. We would be lying if we said we weren’t concerned about being able to extend that culture to our newest facility down the road in Wentzville, MO. While the second Cambridge facility isn’t all that far by mileage, ensuring that each employee experiences the same core values and unconditional love is where the challenge arises.

We know that we are still at the beginning of our multi-facility journey, and reserve any opportunity to improve as we learn, but here is an action plan that helped us feel comfortable that the Cambridge culture will reach all of our employees.

Take a stroll through your facility and take note. 
When you are walking someone through your workspace, what features are you always sure to point out? For us, a favorite stop is a picture wall full of our families and hobbies that help us remember each other’s whole selves. This simple installment will also live at our new facility and will serve to keep faces familiar that we don’t see day-to-day.

Create continuity. 
We wouldn’t be authentic if held one facility to a gold standard and one as an overflow facility, especially since our talent lives in both places. Many of the fundamentals from our headquarters can be easily shared – signage, inviting breakrooms, collaboration spaces, etc. Beyond the basics, we will rely heavily on our 2-Second Lean training and rest assured knowing that each and every employee will make their workspace work for them by eliminating waste and struggle. Our whole culture and operating system is based on the belief that the genius of each and every employee shines through the improvements that they make, so much so that it takes the stress out of making sure the lean (and clean!) workspaces is consistent among facilities.

Create some friendly competition. 
While it is important for everyone to know that they are working toward common goals and are part of unified team, it is also fun to bring in a little competition, especially when it gives employees a chance to show off their employee genius. 

Some of our favorite competitions were centered around who could find and eliminate the most safety risk and which department could produce the best lean improvement. Unsurprisingly, employees ran with the challenge and winners received gift cards or lunch. The spirit of competition and team comraderie can easily be launched in many different locations with leaderboards available to see where each location stands.

Create communication touchpoints. 
Now that many companies have embraced virtual meetings, the idea that communication should be built into daily rhythms is seemingly obvious but can still be difficult to implement. We embrace our daily Morning Meetings as a home for announcements, a review of our revenue, safety, quality and delivery metrics and a way to share our lean improvements with our fellow coworkers.  We have been intentional in ensuring to have equipment in place on Day 1 for the new facility to log in to our Morning Meetings.
 

Other companies rely on an intranet, cadenced emails or a dedicated social media channel or app to keep information flowing among employees. Whatever your choice of communication may be, just be sure that the training of the platform and importance of participation is part of the rhythm of the company and not just used for one-off communications. 

Team Build in each facility AND across locations. 
Taking advantage of virtual capabilities makes it easier than ever to get everyone “in the same place.” Virtual platforms are now commonplace for productive meetings, but can be of value in the team building arena as well. For our 2020 Christmas event, our Activities Team hired a comedic  party host that led us through an engaging hour of team building activities that were refreshingly fun and engaging. You can now also do virtual escape rooms and talent shows.
 

You could also just plan similar activities to occur at the same time at each facility so that no one feels left out of the fun.


We hope in the next year to be able to have all events that make up our culture – morning meetings, lean tours, employee celebrations – as live, in-person events. But if we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that we need to learn to be flexible and creative to not get sidelined by obstacles.

'Gearing Up'

If you were not able to participate in this year's 'Gearing Up' conference put on by the Missouri Association of Manufacturers, you're in luck! The Association has made the recap of the event available on the website, including a segment where the Governor of Missouri, Mike Parson, provides his take on issues that manufacturers face in light of the global pandemic.  

The highly relevant "Rethink. Reboot. Rebuild" conference theme brought incredible insight and advice from local manufacturers on how to sustain and grow the local manufacturing economy amid many unforeseen challenges.

We had the pleasure of hosting a virtual plant tour, as well as a Q&A panel for the Cambridge executive team. Many of the challenges discussed are not unique to our organization, so we hope that sharing our approach might provide ideas and inspiration to others in other people-centric and/or manufacturing organizations.

Here is a sneak peak of the topics we cover:

Human Resources Challenges
Topics covered by our VP of HR, Meg Brown

What is the right mix to create a “healthy working environment” and how does it help to hire and retain employees? 

Communication and on boarding can be difficult anytime, and made harder when the whole company may not be physically present. How can you make that work?


Inviting People in during a Pandemic

Topics covered by our VP of Sales & Marketing, Doug Eisenhart

Why does Cambridge offer lean tours and virtual tours of the plant? What is the value of these tours? 

What is the Morning Meeting daily rhythm? What is its purpose?


Creating and Maintaining a Company Culture

Topic covered by our President, Marc Braun

How do you approach keeping a strong culture during the pandemic?


Moving Forward with Strategic Goals

Topic covered by our CFO and COO, Kevin Thompson

How did you decide to continue with a strategic expansion plan during a year of uncertainty?
 

Thank you to Michael Eaton, the Executive Director of MAM, for including us in this great event as well as all of the great Missouri and Midwest organizations that work every day to bring glory and dignity back to manufacturing.

This lean culture blog was guest-written by Matt Lanham, Regional Sales Manager at Cambridge Air Solutions.

Ask anyone in sales what it’s like to do public speaking and the answer will likely be quite different from the paralyzing fear that some experience. We sometimes take it for granted.  But we all remember that first time we stood up in front of a crowd, trying to remember the lines we memorized, when the question from the back of the room derailed us … yep, there’s that paralyzing fear.

Public speaking, a presentation given live before an audience, remains a common fear for most people. And being able to convey a message, share something personal or educate people plays a vital role in many institutions and in the art of developing solid relationships.

And every day, we practice public speaking by asking our employees to jump in and “take the reins,” although it’s not required.

A daily rhythm

Every morning we experience our morning meeting – a rhythm of anniversaries and birthdays, grateful appreciation ,metrics, improvements and announcements. Scattered inside are stretching, “good mornings” and sometimes hugs (virtually these days). All lead by anyone – literally anyone who wishes to emcee today’s meeting and often share something or anything about themselves.

It’s not about the content, it’s about the action

Inside that sharing, we get to know our emcee better and understand the things that motivate them and things they care deeply about. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious; but we always walk away knowing SOMETHING more about that person, and conversations start to flow. These are the beginning stages of relationship building.

They sign up to do it again ... and again.

It’s some of the first stages of developing leaders. Those that are willing to jump in, mess up or nail it and feel the rush of fear and excitement all in one 20 minute timeframe. It’s about remembering that first time and exuding more and more confidence in subsequent runs in front of your peers and guests. That confidence spills over into small group meetings, peer groups, friends and their home life.

Come witness for yourself

For years I have been saying that our customers love us for a couple simple things – the quality of our products and the ease of doing business with us. None of that is possible without laying witness to our greatest asset and what I refer to as our “secret sauce” – our people and our desire to help build up the leader within them.

Come see us on one of our morning meetings – you will see what we see daily – the growth of our people and the respect we have for one another. Come see us on our journey to improve everything we do – everyday.

What happens when an employee is asked to leave behind the realities of their home life when they walk into their workplace? The outcome is a conflicted person who is forced to figure out where their loyalties lie. As leaders, if you can recognize, celebrate and try to help with different facets of their lives, you can tap into their "whole person" - somebody who is much, much more than somebody you just pay to complete a list of tasks. 

If people are allowed to speak and act freely about their non-work life, they are likely to have a better sense of belonging, stronger loyalties, and often bring innovative ways to problem-solve to the table.

What exactly can leaders do to encourage a "whole self" at work?

  1. Acknowledging that mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, and wives all have unique concerns and burdens that might be weighing on them. 
  2. A friendly listening ear can provide immeasurable support, but even if that is not possible, leaders can provide support through understanding and accommodation if PTO is needed.
  3. Making a genuine effort to learn more about your coworkers' families, including their accomplishments and current life obstacles 
  4. Celebrating accomplishments such as graduations, milestone birthdays, family additions and other changes 
  5. Creating perks and/or benefits that help people personally as well as professionally. One example at Cambridge is the subscription to SmartDollar, Dave Ramsey's online plan to financial freedom.

Watch the video below to hear the benefits first-hand from people who are more than just Cambridge employees, but also mothers, fathers, an Army National Guardsman, baseball enthusiasts and home cooks!

This video is part of our Enriching Lives series. For other ideas of what it means to enrich lives, click here. We'd love to hear your stories of how your company encourages whole selves. Tag us on social media with your story and the hashtag #enrichinglives!

 

Enriching Lives During Uncertain Times

With global and domestic news that can be downright terrifying, it’s ok to do whatever you can to maintain a level of normalcy and comfort right now. However, it can be said that this is the time when we must do what we can to enrich a life of a fellow human being, even if that means doing so from a safe, socially distanced space. As we are all lacking the comfort of a normal routine and proximity to extended family and friends, there are things that we can still do to make another human being’s life better in some way.

Personally / At Home

Spend time with your family

We all wish we “had more time” to try a new hobby with your family, to live in the moment and get to enjoy each other’s company, rather than just rushing to get things done or make your next commitment. This is the time. Make the most of it. Slow down and enjoy each other.

Tackle Your To-Do List

With all of this new found “togetherness,” we may need to take a break or feel that we are being productive (or maybe not!). We all know what our chores are that need to be done to keep the household running, maybe that’s the best you can do right now. But, maybe, you can finally get that linen closet organized for the sanity of your spouse or put together that donation bag of clothes to help the needy. Whatever the task is, enriching a life can come from providing a clean, healthy living space to providing happiness after a finished task.

Professionally / “At Work” or Working From Home

Talk to your employees and colleagues frequently as you would speak to your family members.

Empathize that most everyone is confused, scared and uncertain of what the future brings. If you have a solid plan of action for the future, be sure to communicate openly and make yourself available for any questions or concerns. If you are still trying to work out what the future of your company looks like, you can still communicate that to your employees, solicit input and research what options are available to both you as an employer and them as employees. Let it also be said that generosity during a trying time is never forgotten.

Be willing to try a new way. Learn how to be lean.

Perhaps the way we can all get through this is through creativity and willingness to try something a way we’ve never tried before. In a lean context, the first idea for improvement might be the worst, but it is something to grow on, and a way to get started.  The lean lifestyle is an amazing adaptable one, and can be applied in almost any situation. Identifying and eliminating waste might be easier with a different vantage point or in a new working situation.

Click here to watch some of our lean video compilations and stay tuned for new virtual lean resources!

This is Part 1 of a 2-Part series. Click here to read Part 2 - from the perspective of the Covid-19 Steering Committee and Safety Coordinator.

This blog was guest written by Darla Gibson, Executive Admin at Cambridge Engineering.

We all know what employee engagement means, getting our employees to be present at work. Getting them to make things better, paying attention to quality and making sure our customers are taken care of. But how do we get it?

Over the 20+ years that I have been at Cambridge, I have seen so many iterations of getting the employees heard. From the suggestion box, to a database of issues that they encounter and want solutions for (we called it Employee Action Request or EAR), to rearranging where the departments are physically located to make sure the resources are near to where the problems occur. But it never seemed to work. But, why? 

It wasn’t that we didn’t hear them. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe them. It was a matter of having enough time and figuring out what the priorities were. Once the employee handed the problem to leadership, we had to put it in a bigger engine. Now, we had to prioritize it with the other projects from other areas. It became a bunch of “red tape.” So, what changed that for Cambridge?

I believe that the change came when we told the employees to fix it. That may sound harsh but basically, we said, if it bugs you, fix it. Don’t bring it to us, use the resources within your circle of influence and figure out how you can make it better. Most of the little issues, suddenly get fixed. If the employee was not changing the way our product looks or feels to the customer, we allowed them to find solutions. 

These solutions took a lot of their headaches away. Many times, they had the relationships within their departments and amongst other departments to fix the problems that plagued them day in and day out. They became more engaged because they felt they had a voice in finding the solutions to their own issues. No longer did they have to wait for the item to become top priority, no longer did they wait for a magical solution, they just took care of the issue.

The truly inspiring part of this is that we asked them to record it. We asked for a video that gave the problem and showed us their solution. This gave them a voice.  Now, they had the permission to fix what bugged them, and to show the entire organization their creative process. 

Did this make everything better? Of course not. There were larger problems that needed to be addressed within the bigger engine. However, what I believe this did was give employees a place to be creative and ask them for their ideas to fix problems. 

We have many people come through Cambridge to visit to see what we do. They have heard so many things about our Morning Meeting and our employee engagement.  When they are here, they see and feel this engagement.  This sense that the employee’s voice matters and therefore, the employees are willing to step up and tell us when they have an idea, rather than stay in the background. Everyone’s question is “how did you make it happen?”

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight. We have been on this journey for several years and the iterations keep happening. We have added so many places where the employee can come with ideas and be creative. What all the systems do is recognize that the employee voice needs to be heard, and the employee needs to have a space to be creative.

So, how can you make this happen in your organization?

  1. Create a pathway that works in your organization.  One that is simple and easy for the employee to access. 
  2. Allow the employee to tell their story.  Video is as easy way to share.  Find a venue – email, company meeting, some way for the stories to get published.  Allowing the employee to show off their creativity. 
  3. Celebrate.  Make sure the employee knows that you appreciate their efforts!

Find that space in your organization and let your employees become engaged and thrive!

A quick rhythm that sets the mood for the day. 

Corporate leaders know that creating daily rhythms can make the difference between a “great idea” and a lasting impact on you and your company. These rhythms can range from a team touchpoint meeting on goals to spending 20 minutes reading up on industry trends and news.   
 

A specific rhythm that makes so much sense logically, but can be hard to exercise is giving daily gratitude. It’s not lost on us that sharing gratitude and showing vulnerability in that manner can seem out of place at work, and uncomfortable for some.
 

We feel that this daily rhythm is incredibly important, so much so that we started doing it “first thing” in our morning meeting, before we go over daily sales and metrics. Our practice includes passing the microphone for people to volunteer to thank someone for their help or share a personal moment of gratitude.
 

One may ask “Couldn’t the 5 minutes a day (30+ minutes a week!) be better used?” We are a manufacturing facility that measures the Takt Time it takes to produce one our our HVAC units. Yes, it could be used elsewhere, but in our opinion - not in a better manner.


According to a Gallup poll, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. Even more, another Gallup Poll shows that 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for good work in the last year! We can all agree, that going an entire year without some feeling of appreciation in your daily work has major impacts.

 

The benefits of daily gratitude that we see:
 

Positivity begets Positivity.

Starting the day with insights to how one person helped another just makes you feel good. It’s not a rat race, we’re all in this together and are better because of one another. And that feeling of positivity is a great way to start the day off on the right foot.
 

You learn a LOT about who your coworkers are outside of work.

People are “whole beings” – they don’t leave their personal matters at the door when they clock into work. During our ‘Grateful Appreciations’ – we may learn that they are celebrating a child’s birthday, or saved up enough to put a down payment on a house – all things to celebrate and understand them as a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter or son.
 

People feel appreciated for their work, and that work becomes a passion.

Though bring kind and bettering a life is reason enough, a feeling of appreciation has an enormous impact on retention, referrals, and employee engagement. We also believe that the pride in one's work equates to producing higher quality products on the plant floor and going the extra mile to help a customer out in a service call - actions that you can't exactly interview for but is reason for celebration and recognition when you see it in your employees.


It's simple, right? Maybe not, but I hope that by now you at at least see the importance. Start with a personal goal of seeking out three people to express your thanks. I imagine, you'll find that you exceed this goal on the first day once you're consciously doing it. See how it can really take impact on your organization once you introduce it as a company goal - to give gratitude on a daily basis. 

This post was guest-authored by Doug Eisenhart, VP of Sales, Service and Marketing at Cambridge Engineering.

How do you answer "What do you do?" 

Changing perspective might be your game changer. It certainly was ours.

“Helping Leaders Create Better Working Environments for Hard Working People” is the message on the home page of our website. It signals for the reader, the answer to the question, “What is it that you do?” For years, we answered that question by saying that we are an HVAC manufacturer. Technically, that is true - however, “What we do” is help business leaders support their people by delivering a system along with our equipment that creates comfort and well-being for an organization’s most valuable asset – their people.

Leaders support their people through comfortable indoor temperatures? How?

Facility and operational leaders can make an impact on an employee's health and employment satisfaction by focusing on the quality of the environmental conditions in which they are working. In our HVAC world, it’s about providing fresh outside air ventilation for improved indoor air quality (IAQ) to evenly heat manufacturing and warehousing spaces during the winter months and to provide cooling during the summer months. To provide an example, in our own manufacturing facility, we know the toll that the hot and humid St. Louis summers have on our people and are taking the steps to install and operate a two-stage (Indirect/Direct) evaporative cooling system to lower temperatures in our factory. These evaporative cooling and ventilation units will boast a dramatic operational cost difference compared to traditional mechanical or DX cooling systems, but that is merely a perk to making the plant temperature more comfortable for our employees. More comfort translates into more joy at work. More joy means more people engagement, more employee genius and more fun.

The difference between “What you do?” versus “Who you do it for?”

In Patrick Lencioni’s book "The Advantage,” he challenges business leaders to invest significant time in the development of organizational health. Patrick states, “an organization’s health trumps all strategy.” We agree wholeheartedly. While we work on sales and technological strategy, we recognize that our work on organizational health is first and foundational.

We talk about organizational health frequently. We invest in organizational health continuously through our lean methodology that includes daily meetings with the whole organization and a time commitment made to improving things every day. The organization blocks time out for everyone to work on improving their job daily. This time commitment to improvements as a daily rhythm puts people in contact with one another to solve problems and collaborate on solutions.  Whether a process improvement, safety improvement or product improvement, we are working to improve the quality of our customer’s experience with our brand. Ultimately, a better working environment translates into superior quality and performance of our products for our customers. One’s working environment can have a big impact on the organization.

We welcome business leaders to come visit us in Chesterfield and share your great ideas on how you are investing in better working conditions for people. Come and see us and let’s continue the conversation.