Reference no: EM132184512
When Greg Flickinger became the director of manu- facturing for the snack-food maker Snyder’s-Lance’s Charlotte, North Carolina, facility, he was determined to build from scratch the kind of high-performance workforce he led when he worked for a compet- ing firm. Many organizations take piecemeal ap- proaches to improving their firms. But Flickinger knew that one-off plans for improvement would not result in sustained improvements for the plant— especially given the fact that nearly 1,000 employees work at the Charlotte site producing more than 500 types of products. What the Charlotte plant needed was an all-encompassing high-performance work system. The first step in developing the HPWS was to cre- ate a vision for it that could be defined succinctly and communicated easily to all staff members. Ultimately the vision was defined as follows: “To nurture a transi- tion from a traditional work system to an employee- centric high-performance work system (HPWS) with a cultural foundation rooted in total employee in- volvement and focused on continuous improvement.” The details inherent in the vision then shaped the foundation of a formal but very simple and direct mis- sion: “Take care of your people and deliver your num- bers.” This statement was front and center in every meeting, every communication, and every initiative that was undertaken. It provided the rallying cry and aligned everyone across the site with a concept that was easily translated into something real that people could get their minds around, says Flickinger. When it came to implementation, first up was completely restructuring the way the plant was led. The hierarchical structure of supervisors, department managers, and superintendents were eliminated. Team leaders, line leaders, and technical support leaders were put in place instead. The line leadership con- cept was the most critical role in the development of the plant’s culture of accountability. A line leader was assigned to each line and was responsible for the full value stream of output being produced on it—from raw materials and ingredients in the door through to the finished product out the door. In essence, each line leader owned the success of all aspects of his or her value stream 24 hours a day. This created a single point of accountability. The technical support leaders became the support group for line leaders by providing them expertise in areas such as reliability engineering, system engineering, line changeovers, and sanitation. Another milestone in the development of the HPWS was cross-training on the firm’s largest pro- duction line, including salaried employees. Employees had one month to learn all the jobs and determine who would work what job. They had to learn to work together as a team in a very different way than they had ever worked before. This gave everyone on line an opportunity to walk in the shoes of everyone else and take another step forward toward building trust and respect between salaried and hourly employees. After the HPWS was completely implemented, in 2011, the Charlotte plant experienced financial results the likes of which many thought were impossible:
- 17 percent reduction in cost per pound
- 40 percent reduction in scrap
- 41 percent reduction in lost time accidents
- 52 percent reduction in consumer complaints
These metrics signaled that the HPWS had been effective. Moreover, the improvements were sustained in following years. What makes these gains even more significant is that the performance improve- ments were made with negligible capital investment. The results were driven through a focus on people and processes. Implementing an HPWS isn’t an easy process, though, says Flickinger. Sustained results do not come overnight. Above all, empowering an organization at the individual level doesn’t mean that a firm’s manag- ers can walk away from their role of providing guid ance, prioritization, and, above all, support, he says. “As a leader, you have to make sure the effort touches every employee individually and in a real way. Make the tough decisions to ensure you are taking care of your people, and remember, above all else, sustained success begins and ends with them.
1. Identify how Synder’s-Lance engages its employees.
2. Why might it be more effective to implement an entire new system like an HPWS rather than make incremental changes at a production facility like the one in Charlotte? Couldn’t the large- scale changes create chaos in a plant its size?