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.

As we hit milestones for the opening of our expansion facility for our M-Series ventilation line in Wentzville, Missouri - we understand the importance to pause and celebrate the hard work that's gotten us this far. This event is especially important for us as it is the first in a year that we've been able to celebrate in-person! 

This 1 minute video shows the highlights of our banner lowering at our Chesterfield Facility and the raising at the Wentzville Facility!

'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 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.

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.

"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.