Top Management’s Vision & Values – the Key to Successful Operations!

February 19, 2018

Ellen and I recently participated in an APICS sponsored plant tour at a local internationally renowned manufacturer of CNC machine tools.  During the orientation someone asked if they “used” Lean, and our guide’s answer was “Yes, but we don’t necessarily call it Lean, it is just a part of our culture”.  While touring the shop floor we saw extensive evidence of Lean practices in place; including a highly organized workplace, standardization, SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies), a passion for quality, and employee empowerment of their operators, (i.e. Lean).

When the question was raised: do you have an ERP system, our guide answered: “Yes, but we use it more for business and operational planning than as a tool for scheduling the shop”.  This company truly has an understanding of how to use ERP systems and Lean tools properly.

What is the common denominator in companies such as this one that sets them apart from the others?

The answer is – The VISION of top management.   In this case their CEO, who is the owner and founder of the company, had a vision as to how he wanted to compete and operate his business.  As the business grew, he made sure that his vision and values were instilled in all employees through his demonstration of those values, thus creating a “top to bottom” culture of operating a company aimed at benefiting all their stakeholders; not just generating short term profits.

One thing visionary CEOs have in common is that they often surround themselves with people who have skills and knowledge complimentary to their own.  They don’t try to do everything themselves or micromanage their people. They hire good people and then provide them with the tools, training, and support needed to do their jobs to the best of their ability; as was so evident during this plant tour.

Our guide told us that while the owner is there almost every day he does not get involved the day to day operations.  He leaves that up to the GM.  He looks to others to resolve issues and trusts them to do their jobs even though he may sometimes have a better idea or solution to a problem.  His primary involvement is with product design and raising brand awareness.

This company has many loyal longtime employees and a low turnover rate.  Yet, we were told that the door is always open to good talent.  As well as hiring good people, they have a unique program for training operators.  They sell their machines to vocational schools and colleges, at greatly discounted prices. Hence, students who are trained on their equipment provide the facility with a pool of trained operators for future employment at this and other companies.

This strategy reduces the learning curve and cost of training new employees as well as growing sales by ensuring that other companies can use their products more easily and find qualified operators.  An operator trained on one of their machines can operate any of their machines, as the buttons and controls are always in the same place, no matter the model or year of machine being used.

This company clearly demonstrates that it is the vision, values, and guidance of the CEO that makes a company truly successful and sustainable; not an MBA, or technical degree, or years of experience operating companies “by the books”.  Take care of all of the stakeholders and everything else seems to fall into place.  What an inspiration it was for all of us!

For more information on improving your operations, please contact Jim Strong or Ellen Kane at the ACA Group.

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