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!

 

This blog was guest-written by Darla Gibson (Executive Admin) with input from Meg Brown (VP of HR) and Conner LaLonde (Safety Coordinator) - all members of our COVID-19 Steering Committee.

This is Part 2 of a blog that we developed to help remind us that in this time of uncertainty, we can still live out our mission of enriching lives. Read Part 1 here.

Enriching Lives During a Pandemic - From the Perspective of the Cambridge COVID-19 Steering Committee.

When we realized that we were going to have to address the COVID-19 situation at Cambridge Air Solutions from a corporate standpoint, we started a Steering Committee, as I am sure many of you did. Our COO/CFO Kevin Thompson was part of this committee and he stated up front that the Committee needed to act within four core principles: Wellbeing, Generosity, Creativity and Transparency. These principles fall into line with our “We exist to glorify God by enriching every life we touch” mission statement. But how exactly do you “Enrich Lives” when things are changing faster than you can react?

Fortunately, we have a culture that allows us a lot of flexibility in being creative, trying something that may or may not work, being quick to act, quick to fail and quick to improve! So, the following are some of the things that our COVID-19 Committee put into place to enrich the lives of our employees, vendors, and customers.

Once we verified that we were an essential business and could continue our operations, we did something that I never thought I’d see at Cambridge as we have historically been a traditional organization, working in the office. We knew we had to find a way for people to work from home.  Obviously, our manufacturing operations cannot do that, but what if the office personnel did? That would allow us to have less people crossing paths AND, allow the office side to deal with the fallout of childcare and school closures.

Then, we said, how do we address these same items (childcare and school closures) for Manufacturing, as well as keeping them safe when they come to work? This was more difficult, and as St. Louis County said, “stay at home” we decided to take a week, pay our employees, and give us breathing room to make it happen.

In that week, we worked on alternative schedules based on each employee’s need, we worked on how to make the building safe for the return, as well as on-going after the return, we reworked how outsiders could visit our building – we had a very open policy for delivery and pick-up that had to change, and we found a communication channel that we could utilize to communicate with the employees on what we were doing.

That was a tough week. The Committee put in overtime galore to make it all happen. From policy changes, governmental as well as corporate, to reworking how the lunchroom flow was going to work, it was crazy!  It didn’t feel like we were enriching, it felt like we were turning the world upside down!  Our Morning Meeting had gone from all company, in person, to virtual from home, with only the office employees! No more high-fives, fist bumps and laughter, but tired, stressed out “Brady Bunch” screens of employees!

In a little less than a week, we put together a plan, implemented it and were ready to welcome back our Manufacturing team. We made it!  We tried to make them feel welcome and safe by keeping with our brand promise of “enriching lives”. But, how did we do that?

  1. Safety – is always our first criteria for everything we do.  So, we put a portable water closet for our truck drivers, with a vanity, thanking them for “keeping America Moving!”, we rented portable hand washing stations to put them closer to the employee work stations, we took out the high-touch things like water coolers and coffee supplies, we revamped cleaning protocols…everything we could think of to keep them safe and flatten that curve!  It didn’t always feel like enriching lives, but if safety comes first, it is an enriching moment! 
  2. Communication, Communication, Communication!  This was the most difficult to execute as we had to find a platform that would work for everyone.  WhatsApp was our solution, there were a lot of choices, but this allowed us to send out messages to the employees to let them know what the changes would be and what they could expect.  It also allows them to reply if there are questions.  We use video a lot and this platform allowed us to continue the use of video. We utilized our partnerships with other businesses through our corporate memberships, such as St. Louis AME Consortium and AME National, to find and adapt documents and ideas that they were using. Being able to share and adapt what was working (or not working) at other organizations kept our speed up on these changes and communications. We also put together a survey to send out to the Operations team. This went out the end of the first week and gave us some feedback on how we were doing and the employees’ willingness to return. We are sending this out every two weeks so we can get continued feedback from them. 
  3. Scheduling – We spoke to each employee about it being voluntary to work or not work. Our goal was to help them figure out the options for pay (or no pay) given their individual situations. 
  4. Remote Meetings – I mentioned our Morning Meeting earlier, but we moved ALL meetings to remote, using Zoom and have found our employees are thankful for the flexibility this allows them as their home lives are as different as their work lives!  Our Operations team is also able to be part of the Morning Meetings in this format. We have made it purposeful to keep normal updates going through this format too. For example, our CFO does a monthly update on finances and we have continued to do this.  We are also working on our Quarterly update meeting in April and finding new solutions to making that happen. It may be a different format, but it is an important communication we do not want to skip! 

The COVID-19 Steering Committee meets as often as needed to discuss, review and update as the world and guidelines keep changing.  Then, we COMMUNICATE! Our VP of HR, Meg Brown has made sure we posted something once a day minimum at the start to keep everyone aware of what was happening.  She continues to update as things change.

Although Safety is always #1, if I had to pick an item of most impact, it is the Communication piece.  The what we are doing and why, is what lets the employee know you are thinking of them first, along with their families, our vendors, and our customers.

So many things have changed in our world but looking through the lens of “Wellbeing, Generosity, Creativity and Transparency”, allows you to always think of others before anything else.

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!

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.

"My passion is to restore Glory and Dignity back to US Manufacturing."

This ambitious statement was first articulated by our CEO, John Kramer, during a lean exposure trip to McElroy Manufacturing and Tulsa Tube Bending in 2017. Since then, it's become our mantra at Cambridge, demonstrating what we we all know is true: that the people working within the manufacturing industry are elevating perceptions and creating a huge impact on the overall national GDP. And we need to celebrate them.

Restoring glory and dignity may feel to some like it's too aspirational, too much to take on, but it is in fact very achievable. It's the little things that add up: sharing grateful appreciation to co-worker on the line, providing the opportunity for financial wellness by offering Dave Ramsey's program to employees, cooking birthday breakfasts and so much more. 

Follow #GloryandDignity on Facebook. LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter to see the movement in action. 

You can probably already think of a million examples of how you've seen glory and dignity being restored at your work or how you've become more of a "whole being" because of an opportunity given to you. Tell us your story. Help us create this movement. Tag these instances on social with the hashtag #gloryanddignity, so we can celebrate with you and others can be inspired.

Cambridge has recently decided to test the Andon strategy from the Toyota Production System in conjunction with the lean manufacturing already being practiced at our shop. Andon is a popular form of visual management used in lean, designed to alert operators of problems as they occur in order for corrective action to be taken immediately. Originating from the Jidoka methodology used in Toyota’s production system, the system empowers employees to recognize problems and take initiative to stop the workflow without waiting for their superiors to do so. 

In most cases, an operator would pull the “Andon Cord” - a rope located above the manufacturing line which signals to everyone that a problem has been detected in a specific location on the line. Because of its benefits and empowerment to employees, Cambridge decided to adopt its own form of Andon.

Instead of using a typical Andon Cord, we chose to use the Voxer App.  Voxer is a “walkie talkie-like" app that can be downloaded on smartphones or computers. This app was chosen because, unlike the traditional Andon method, it allows various forms of access to the individuals working the line. However, if expectations are not set clearly on how corrective action should be taken as problems arise, Cambridge will not be able to utilize the full potential of everyone’s ability to help.

Before alerting all operators of an issue, we set up parameters to follow. If an operator can fix the problem in less than 10 minutes, the operator should attempt to solve the problem by his or herself. If the problem will take more than 10 minutes to fix, the operator is responsible to use Voxer to alert other employees for help. 

We also felt it important to set up certain levels of response. The supervisor, team lead and operations engineer are the first to assess the situation when called upon. If they cannot fix the problem, it continues to a higher level of support including engineering, supply chain, etc. If this level cannot fix the problem, it continues to an “all hands on deck” level of support.

The S-Series line is the first place to test Andon because it is an area in the shop that has an actual flow of work happening from one operator to the next. Unlike the other lines, the S-Series line has a takt time of 60 minutes per station when building a heater.

“Andon is about responding to issues immediately, finding the root cause of the issue, and putting a permanent corrective action in place so that the issue never occurs again”, states Cole Drussa, Operations Engineering Manager.

By fully adopting Andon, Cambridge also has the ability to document problems that happen on a daily basis. The data produced from Andon gives the engineering department knowledge of the frequency and severity of problems that interrupt the workflow.

Overall, the goal of Andon at Cambridge is to remove anything that inhibits flow.  Quality problems will be brought to the surface to be identified, the root cause will be established, and a final solution to the problem will ideally be found.  Through Andon, Cambridge plans to document and fix problems permanently. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing #GloryandDignity back to manufacturing.

It’s an aspirational concept, one that you might not associate with manufacturing. We see it every day, though, through the companies that share their stories with us when they visit our facility or our colleagues at trade events. The goal of lifting our industry to a higher standard by giving back to the community and to employees might not be intrinsic to all leaders - yet, more and more, we see shining examples of our friends in this business doing just that.

The Seating Matters team is generating tools and resources to save lives before and after pressure injuries through an Injury Prevention Program aimed at correct seating, training, maintenance and education of staff.

BCI is providing high-quality packaging solutions to their customers through a system of creating meaningful employment and skills training for 250 adults with disabilities.

A structure of independent and interdependent teams at Vibco allows individuals valued for their strengths to complement and grow with each other while working toward the same mission.

FastCap continues to share their own manufacturing improvement ideas through 2 Second Lean to inspire other organizations or to even just provide a simple solution to a problem they might be facing.

Remembering to fête the lines’ extraordinary output when we hit a 13 unit/day output (up from 8-9 units/day) while maintaining quality standards was essential. The service team is constantly praised by our contractor partners for their diligence and assistance through any issue in the field. The engineering department’s behind-the-scenes work designing custom, yet simple, solutions for our end users deserves its own standing ovation. Each Cambridge employee embodies the dignity factor, and as a whole, they bring glory to their work, our company, and the manufacturing industry.

Watch John’s speech from 2017 that helped us realize the #gloryanddignity mission!

 

We had the privilege of welcoming Nigel Thurlow, Chief of Agile at Toyota Connected to Cambridge to train us on the fundamentals of how Scrum, Lean and Agile all work together in a beautiful equilibrium. As many of our Scrum teams are off and running, this was a great opportunity to review and realign to keep the momentum going. Watch the video below to see how we took advantage of having Nigel onsite for 8 hours!

To find out more about the initial Scrum training that Cambridge sought out from Nigel, make sure to see our previous blog post on Learning Scrum - The Toyota Way!

 

 

This post was guest-written by our friend in lean and life, Martin Tierney, from Seating Matters in Northern Ireland. In case you missed it, you can experience the amazing things Martin and his team are doing with lean in our blog post.

 

I recently visited Cambridge engineering to learn from their awesome team following their visit to Seating Matters in Ireland. We, too, are in manufacturing and wished to visit Cambridge to learn how they’ve implemented lean, developed their culture of respect and care for their colleagues and grown a successful business as a result. 

This video only gives 5% (or less!) of the lessons I took away from visiting Cambridge. Their unique blend of hard work, creativity, respect for people, clever project management and an impressive drive for growth is something that cannot be bottled into a 5 minute clip. 

They are truly bringing glory and dignity back to manufacturing. Their people and their leadership have created something truly special.