Best practice club: No 2

Personnel
Today’s new monthly series by the Best Practice Club reveals how managers
tackle business problems and enhance performance. In this issue, Alan Hunter,
continuous improvement manager at Glenair UK, explains how harnessing ideas
from the workforce offers considerable rewards for business

Glenair UK is based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, with three facilities
employing more than 450 workers, servicing customers in the aerospace, defence
and telecommunications markets.

The work at Glenair is predominantly process-based, with assembly, quality
control, packing and distribution executed as efficiently as possible to
maximise production.

In the past, although traditionally open to new ideas, there wasn’t the
robust structure in place to evaluate suggestions and see them through to
fruition.

A few months ago, however, Glenair began a dedicated continuous improvement
scheme, employed a team to drive ideas, and created a system that could – and
would – work.

This driving force is called Active and exists to help self-empowered work
teams come up with new initiatives for making improvements within their scope
of work.

How we implemented the change

At first, the Active team found it difficult to implement the new culture.
There was a certain amount of resistance from people who had been involved in
improvement schemes in the past, but had become disillusioned when they had not
worked.

At Glenair, the idea was to get senior people in the company on board as
much as possible. With their support, the continuous improvement team could
pursue its goal of getting everyone in the company involved with the programme.

The scheme is driven mainly by a new database that is accessible to all
Active members within Glenair. This exists purely for the input of ideas.

Employees are encouraged to type their suggestions for business improvement
into the database. Once the idea has been input, there is an automatic option
to e-mail the relevant manager in that department. This means the idea goes
directly to the person who has the authority and expertise to evaluate the
suggestion and see if it is viable.

Crucially, these messages are also forwarded to the continuous improvement
team, so they always know which ideas are going through the system at any one
time and if they are being responded to appropriately. This also helps the team
identify any training requirements that might come up as a result of a
suggestion.

Positive outcomes for the business

The benefits of a continuous improvement scheme are manifold, but particular
impact can be seen in personnel satisfaction and time and cost savings.

When employees are actually being listened to and their ideas taken on
board, their sense of involvement in company life increases. Not only that, but
good ideas can make a real difference to the business.

One idea, involving a simple change in packaging, now saves the company 25
minutes of packing time per individual unit.

A job that used to take one worker half an hour to complete now takes only
five minutes – freeing them up for other work in the factory. Calculated over
even a short period, this works out as a significant saving for Glenair.

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