Bringing your employees into the discussion is the first small step toward large goals.
Employees know that when your company is competitive, profitable and satisfying customers, their jobs are more pleasant and, in many cases, better protected. Calling on that sense of goodwill, and on employees' detailed knowledge of your systems and equipment, can help you identify ways to increase efficiency. The key is to build trust by involving employees in discussions about efficiency on an ongoing basis.
Particularly in manufacturing, efficiency has developed a negative connotation. Making systems more efficient is sometimes seen as a precursor to job loss. So, take special care to remain honest with your employees about the reason for your pursuit of efficiency. For example, if your goal is to streamline processes to prepare for an incoming contract, let your employees know. Open communication is the best groundwork for consensus about goals and progress toward them.
Take the time to meet with employees and find out where they see process problems in your existing workflow. They may not only know what the problem is, but why it exists and even how to fix it with a simple solution. Employees are the perfect sources of information about many concerns, including:
Once you've evaluated the situation, you'll need to set a few vital performance targets for employees - these are what you plan to achieve by implementing practical steps. They may be to reduce work-in-process inventory by a specific amount, improve throughput for certain products or eliminate missed shipment dates for key customers. Make sure you and your employees are using the same terms to describe your progress, clarify goals and negotiate changes. Also, continue to clearly communicate why production and improvement targets are important on the shop floor, what support employees will get to achieve the improvements and how the processes are performing.
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