IndustryWeek, a large-scale manufacturing industry publication that publishes articles on manufacturing leadership, the global economy, operations, finance, supply chains, technology, and many more issues related to the operation of manufacturing businesses, issues a weekly award for their “Manufacturing Leader of the Week.” This award is designed to highlight manufacturing leaders who drive growth in the industry and are helping to shape the future of the manufacturing business.
On November 6, Marlin Steel president Drew Greenblatt was awarded the honor of being named IndustryWeek’s Manufacturing Leader of the Week. We here at Marlin Steel are proud to have a leader who is ranked among the best in the industry by such a venerable and trusted publication as IndustryWeek.
How Marlin Steel earned it
Being named manufacturing leader of the week takes more than just running a successful business, it takes hard work and effort to innovate leadership practices that make a positive impact on productivity and quality.
In an interview with IndustryWeek, Drew shared top actions that manufacturing leaders can take to spur growth and innovation in their companies, including:
#1: Putting Someone in Charge
On any major project, you need to have a “general” that’s in charge of the team working that project. This person needs to be held accountable for the success or failure of the project so that they’ll work hard to make sure that things get done.
When projects are “managed” by a committee, both credit and blame become nearly impossible to assign. The mantra “it’s not my fault” spreads like a disease throughout the team as responsibility, and accountability, becomes more and more spread out over a group.
With a single team member in charge, there exists a clear chain of command, and one person who will ride herd on anyone who is not meeting deadlines or doing things the right way.
#2: Developing Cross-Functional Teams
Beyond establishing a single “general” to be in charge of any given project, having these leaders bring in functional experts from the rest of the company to lend their insights and perspectives to a project can lead to major improvements and prevent oversights.
For example, a production specialist is used to thinking about the actual implementation of assembly techniques, and can point out design features that would be difficult or impractical to implement with the equipment on hand. Each specialist brings their own unique lens for viewing challenges, often bringing to attention things that the members of even the most talented and skilled production cell would miss on their own.
#3: Set Some BHAGs
If you don’t challenge your team to meet challenging goals, it becomes too easy for team members to become complacent with their success. To keep a team motivated to keep producing in a big way while avoiding the productivity pit of complacency, you need to set what Drew calls “big, hairy, audacious goals,” or BHAGs for short.
Challenging, but not impossible, a BHAG encourages creativity. For an example from the IndustryWeek article, when Marlin Steel acquired the IDEAL robotic welder, the manufacturer said that it would take about six to eight weeks to begin shipping parts. Marlin Steel’s team set a BHAG of three weeks.
Parts were being shipped out using the new machine inside of two weeks.
By rejecting conventional implementation and rethinking the implementation process, Marlin Steel was able to greatly exceed the expectations for setup time normally associated with on-boarding the IDEAL welder.
#4: Improve by 1% EVERY Day
Never be satisfied with “enough” productivity. “Enough” is never enough. Laying back and saying that your production processes are fine as they are is the short path to complacency and lost efficiency.
By constantly striving to make small improvements of just 1% a day, you will find that over the course of a year, your productivity and profitability have doubled. Here at Marlin Steel, for example, our production teams hold Kaizen events to find ways to improve workflows.
Team managers even have some required reading to do: The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt, and A Study of the Toyota Production System, by Shigeo Shingo. These publications prominently feature lean manufacturing techniques that can be easily adapted to improve efficiency and productivity, and give all managers a common language for discussing continuous improvement practices.
#5: Be Prepared to Accept Mistakes
Constantly striving for improvement and working to meet BHAGs is not always easy. People will have to stick their necks out to try new things and test ideas, and not everything will work 100% of the time.
When you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a few times. Because of this, manufacturing leaders need to be prepared for a few setbacks, and team members need to know that they won’t lose their livelihoods over a failed attempt at innovation.
For an example from Marlin Steel, one employee assembled a team to work out how to bend all four sides of a basket simultaneously to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process. The first iteration of the new process didn’t work out, nor did the second or the third. It took no less than 20 tries over the course of six months to get the new process perfected.
Where some companies might have punished the employee for “wasting resources” after just a few failures, Marlin Steel’s leadership recognized the potential for improvement in the process. This faith was rewarded with a safer, more efficient process for bending wire baskets that increased throughput, which will more than offset the cost of a few unsuccessful tests.
To learn more about how Marlin Steel’s leadership works to improve productivity and quality, you can read the full IndustryWeek article for the complete list of top actions manufacturers can take to spur on growth. Or, you can check out some of our other recent blog articles for recent projects and insights into the manufacturing process.