Here's another story about a small private manufacturing company, Electri-Cable Assemblies, and their lean success. It seems like all I'm able to feature here is small companies. The larger Fortune 500 and public companies seem to struggle with lean — it's probably due to their size and their short-term focus, don't you think? Electri-Cable has 57 employees. It has to be much easier to rally a smaller group around a common lean goal. I'm not saying it was “easy” for them to work on lean, but it's different than rallying 57,000 employees as multiple sites.
The article talked about how management opened up the factory for a tour with a local manufacturing association:
While many companies claim to empower employees, Electri-Cable's owners proved they believe in this principle by turning the tour over to workers, including Brandstatter.
Hayden explained in simple terms why the owners turned the tour over to workers: “They run the factory.”
That's a nice example of having respect for their workers, letting them lead their tour and explain their own work, allowing them to take pride in what they do and what they have accomplished.
Now, don't confuse “turning the tour over” with the idea of “turning the factory over” to workers. Management, in lean, has to let workers make decisions, drive improvements, and take responsibility for many things. Employee empowerment doesn't mean that management takes a completely hands off appproach.
Management can't abdicate their responsibility as leaders. Management still has ultimate responsibility for creating a good working environment and for focusing on safety and quality. Management has to make sure standard work and other standards are being adhered to and that continuous improvement is taking place.
I'm not saying that Electri-Cable is making that mistake, it's just a more general comment and piece of advice.
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