Guest Editor: Brian Philipps, Director of Engineering
American engineer and entrepreneur Henry Ford believed that inherent success will only come from the willingness to start again after failure. He said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” At creative werks, we focus on Ford’s notion to, “begin again more intelligently.” In a 24/7 manufacturing environment, creative werks has the expectation that each day operations and production will make small improvements from the day before. We call this the continuous improvement mantra. Companies are often striving to make rate and hit their bottom line, not realizing they’re ignoring an opportunity to launch their business forward by leaps and bounds. As a truly customer-focused company, creative werks practices continuous improvement (CI) to ensure that we increase efficiencies and satisfy our customers’ needs. ASQ defines continuous improvement as, “An on-going effort to improve products, services, or processes.” The practice of CI allows us to streamline work, maintain high customer service standards, and reduce waste in the forms of cost, time and defects. Our customers look to creative werks to create value in everything we do. That's why we avoid cost increases when possible and focus on internal improvements to keep costs low year over year, allowing creative werks and our clients to focus on growth and R&D.
In order for continuous improvement to take hold and drive change, it must involve three facets to ensure its success: Leadership, Culture, and a Long-Term Mindset.
The number one factor for a successful continuous improvement initiative is strong leadership. We discovered early on that our leadership team must be behind the CI efforts. Leading by example is the most effective way to inspire an organizational change and impact company culture. Our executive team supports creative werks’ CI mindset and makes it part of the strategic plan and performance reviews. This approach may start at the top of an organization, but it must flow all the way down to the newest member of the team to be effective. We want to involve every tier of our organization, helping guide new processes and drive the allocation of resources and time.
Culture is the most important element to true organizational maturity. Leadership may set the tone for a CI mindset, but it’s the culture of the organization that will make this idea take hold. At creative werks, CI manifests in numerous ways from daily production meetings, to scrap avoidance, to how we give back to the community. In 2017, creative werks' management team participated in an eight-week intensive course focusing on lean management and how to implement CI principles into everyday practice. As a result, management brought learnings and a CI mindset to their department. A CI mindset focuses on the people and the success of the team, which requires everyone’s engagement, commitment and trust. Making incremental improvements each day must become business as usual for creative werks and this is one of our biggest takeaways as we implement and learn from the continuous improvement philosophy.
To maintain and sustain progress, we at creative werks have an unrelenting and unwavering focus on improvement. Maintaining and fostering a CI environment has a direct impact on our quality and pricing. These impacts reflect upon our clients and our ability to grow our great business. Early on, creative werks realized that small, incremental changes make a big difference.
Some of the ways we have implemented a continuous improvement mindset in the company are easy to see:
- adopted 5S to stage pallets in a consistent manner
- “post-season” or “post-project” meetings to discuss ways to improve production
- weekly attainment meetings to discuss the prior week’s issues and target solutions
- upgraded our ERP system and reporting software to better collect and analyze data
- increased recycled materials while reducing labor and management oversight
Most importantly, all associates are expected to share ideas to improve and get better. Only when all members of the company are engaged in a CI mindset, will change truly take place.