Online Edition - June 2000
Issue Highlight - Safe
Training In A Union-Management Partnership
--Imagine Siemens Energy and Automation in Ohio as a hypothetical boot camp for continuous improvement. You and the other imaginary recruits are standing at attention in the barracks. It's the first day of basic training. Sergeant Margi Fox, the real-life manager of continuous improvement and training for Siemens, watches with a trained eye as you snap to attention. Then she tries to make nice. "
--At ease. Now, listen up. To have a successful team program," Fox says, "companies and unions must create an environment that encourages employee involvement."
--Fox looks over her recruits, and then continues, "Effective involvement produces results throughout the organization, while instilling trust and cooperation. In addition to problem solving, your team needs to provide a forum, so employees can learn to work together, make improvements to their work areas, and so forth."
--"Now," she says, lowering her pitch and changing her sergeant's bark to a notably honeyed tone, "Who wants to share with me, what's standing in your way of transforming your employees into motivated team members?"
--Silence fills the room. You wonder, is everyone going to chicken out? There must be 20 things you can think of right off the bat, simple, logical reasons why continuous improvement won't work in your company. A guy to your left raises a tentative hand. His voice jumps slightly, "Sergeant, a lack of training is a real problem at my plant. We don't have time to take everyone off-site..." He trails off, unsure as to how Fox is going to react.
--"What's your name, private?"
--"Jim Donaldson." "Alright, then, Private Donaldson, I'll write that down." Fox turns to a marker board behind her and writes in blue ink "Training." "Anyone else?" Encouraged, a few more recruits raise their hands, "Rewards. We can't pay people for participation in our company," says one. "Too big of a time commitment," says another. Fox writes them down and turns to see ten more hands in the air.
--A few minutes later, Fox is pacing in front of the group. The board behind her is covered with marker ink. Her tone has changed back to a sergeant's bark. "So you think you face some problems with continuous improvement? You think you've got it so hard, you're never going to get over these enormous barriers?" Her voice drips with sarcasm.
-- "Well, at Siemens we've been around for 150 years. We have 40,400 employees, 1,100 of them in Ohio. All of our hourly employees are members of the local union and about 40 percent are members of continuous improvement teams. We have a successful program. If we can do it, you can, too."
--Of course, Margi Fox isn't really a sergeant, and you haven't entered Siemens' continuous improvement (CI) boot camp. But if you can come up with a marker board full of excuses why CI won't work in your company, in this imaginary scenario, Sergeant Fox has you right where she wants you-feeling like a first-year recruit. Someone who still thinks a good excuse might get them out of the line of duty. Fat chance.
--"Now, while you're here, you're going to learn how it's done," Sergeant Fox says. "And I don't want to hear any excuses. If we could take it, you can take it. Get out your notebooks, privates. It starts with seven key components."
1) Management and union commitment. Meeting time is sacred for CI teams, and management needs to support employees' time in meetings. It pays off. Siemens' average dollar spent in meeting time has been valued at more than $7 in savings from enhanced and corrected procedures. Union employees must also buy in to the CI team program. Don't just have salaried employees participate. Union employees who have a good working relationship will be committed.
2) Joint union and management leadership. A CI implementation team should consist of both union and management. Seimens CI staff includes four full-time employees: a salaried coordinator who supervises three CI facilitators. They retain their hourly employee status and membership to the union. Others involved in the continuous improvement process include the vice president, general manager, manager of human resources and continuous improvement team members.
--Each facilitator supervises 15 teams and is trained to use tools like brainstorming, problem solving and cause and effect analysis. The facilitator acts as a liaison between the teams and departments (like going to the finance department to get a report) and sets up meetings.
3) A structured, standardized process. By adopting a standardized process, team members learn to use good analysis and problem-solving skills. As part of this process, teams are required to register their project. The registration establishes a documentation of ownership, establishes key measurements and communicates team goals to management and team leaders in the union. Registration also prevents duplication of a project or taking on a project leaders are opposed to. Some projects are assigned, some are chosen. Salaried members usually get projects assigned, hourly employees usually pick a project close to their heart. Meeting minutes are another element of the standardized process. Minutes detail the project and its goal; they are compiled on a standard form and posted in the work area.
4) A summary manual. A large part of the standardized CI team process is the summary manual. Siemens uses a project summary manual to guide teams through member roles and responsibilities, data collection and root cause analysis. The manual is a step-by-step workbook provided to teams including examples, tools and methodologies of problem solving. Components include space to outline goals and responsibilities of various roles, to define the need for the project and identify stakeholders.
--Identifying whom the project will affect is a key point-you have to get the right people on the team, especially in instances where production is tied to certain areas. The manual also has space for setting and establishing goals for the team (the project must be directly aligned with department key objectives) and setting a completion date.
5) Meetings. The basic unit of Siemens' structured CI process is the meeting. Once a team forms and a facilitator is assigned, a meeting is scheduled for no more than one hour. There's a clock in each meeting room, and a team member is asked to keep time. A meeting code of conduct and behavioral and operational do's and don'ts are posted in the meeting room, plus supply bins filled with forms, manuals and rules and regulations. Meetings are once a week during production times.
6) Proper training and information. Team members get a lot of training from working with the summary manual and with the team facilitator. Facilitators get additional training through about 20 hours worth of training off-site. Team members are also given readily accessible data in a user-friendly format. Years ago, Siemens company data was supplied in the form of green bars. Now CI teams can work with a management information service that helps obtain good, usable information.
7) Employee involvement. Siemens CI program is entirely voluntary. There are now 70 teams, representing 40 percent of the employees. Awards and recognition are used to bolster morale in teams and keep people motivated, including the Star Award, VIP program and team competitions. The Star Award is a certificate and pin from the vice president; the VIP program, based on cost avoidance and bottom line results, is celebrated with an awards dinner. For ergonomic and safety projects, Siemens also has a treasure chest filled with 10, 20 or 30-dollar prizes.
--Siemens competes in two different team competitions, the Ohio Manufacturers Association Case Studies in Team Excellence competition and Siemens Energy and Automation Team Competition. The Urbana, Ohio plant won both of these in 1998.
--These results provide proof of the excellent continuous improvement team at Siemens of Ohio. They also suggest basic training at Margi Fox's imaginary boot camp can prepare any organization for a mission to battle slow and inefficient processes.