Engage your workforce

Nov. 1, 2012

Klaus M. Blache, Ph.D., MBA, CPE, is research professor at the University of Tennessee College of Engineering.

Klaus M. Blache, Ph.D., MBA, CPE, is research professor at the University of Tennessee College of Engineering. He's also director of the university's Reliability & Maintainability Center (www.rmc.utk.edu). At the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals' annual conference this past October in Orlando, Florida, Blache shared some of the data that were gathered in Part 1 of the Impacts of an Engaged Workforce Study, which compiled responses from more than 200 plants, about half of which were outside of North America.

"Every new plant you build should replace two old plants," advises Blache, who also is a former chair of SMRP (www.smrp.org). "I’ve been to hundreds of plants around the world, and they all have the same tools. The difference is, when things go wrong, the people in the best plants have the discipline to get back to standardized work." The RMC director refers to this as statistical control.

According to the study, good plants have standardization, PDCA, value stream mapping, visual controls, and kaizen in common, while the best plants also have an engaged workforce, which means changing the thinking process of people.

“The likelihood of success is seven times higher if the workforce is engaged,” says Blache. “You might have some significant events, but changing culture will take several years.”

The less reactive maintenance you do, the better your safety will be, he offers. “Higher absenteeism translates into lower product quality,” explains Blache. “I still see a lot of opportunities at low cost, and they’re not all on the plant floor, but there’s not always a shared desire to improve or to attack hidden costs.”

The biggest roadblocks to success, according to Part 1 of the study, are poor leadership/lack of support, cited by 31% of respondents, and resistance to change/negative attitudes, which 29% mentioned.

Not surprisingly, the survey cited leadership support (31%) and clear communications/vision (26%) as the top enablers to change.

“If you’re doing 5S, you’ve got a 50/50 chance at being successful with your lean or continuous improvement initiative after five years,” explains Blache.

Because Part 2 of the survey is more data-driven, a PDF file is available to allow you to compile the data/answers in advance. Just drop me an email, and I’ll be happy to send it to you.

When you’re ready to enter the data in Part 2 of the Impacts of an Engaged Workforce Study, go to http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e3a83j49gixgowk0/start. Or you can visit the RMC website at http://www.rmc.utk.edu/ and scroll down to the orange survey button (Impacts of an Engaged Workforce Study).

There will be various cross-checks for data accuracy, and participants will receive a summary of the results.

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