Humility, Cultural Recruiting & Morning Meetings

A Four Part Series

on Posted on

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication.
Authored by Lea Tonkin

Part Three of a Four Part Series. Miss Parts One and Two? Click Here to Read!

 

Humility

The culture at Cambridge reflects a unique perspective on pursuing humility. From the president to the front line worker, people share a consistent theme of humility as something to strive for instead of something to endure.

“Humility is part of the beauty of working here and part of what attracted me,” said Meg Brown, human resources director. “You are asked to make improvements and share them with videos. It’s empowering to be able to say, ‘I made a difference today.”

“No task is too small,” added Brown. Leadership and others from throughout the company voluntarily share the task for cleaning bathrooms, for example – reflecting humility and ownership.

Cultural recruiting

Cultural recruiting – attracting potential employees who will support the Cambridge collaborative approach – is crucial to the company’s long-term success. “We attract people who enjoy being problem solvers, and being given the ability to make changes,” Brown said. “This gives us a huge competitive advantage in this tight labor marker.”

Cambridge Engineering’s employee turnover rate is 12.7%, including seasonal workers. “This is ‘sticky’ in a good way,” Brown said. “People like the freedom to change things that bug them, and to be supported in their work environment.” Brown added that training and development investment will continue to evolve, as Cambridge leadership continues to strive for organizational health and alignment in all areas.

Morning Meetings – cultural glue

Finding frequent opportunities to celebrate employees and their improvement ideas, and to grow leaders, is key to building lean capabilities at Cambridge. All-company 15-minute meetings are held daily at 8:30 am. “The morning meeting provides an enormous opportunity for growth across the company,” said Bruce Kisslinger, Jr., director of manufacturing. Meetings are led by a different employee volunteer every day; more than 50 percent of the workforce step into this role.

The meetings start with stretching and the leader sharing anything they would like to with everyone in the company. Then employees share gratitude for anything that brings job to employees. Anyone can grab the microphone and share; many do. Next, videos created the day before are viewed and everyone claps as employees courageously share their attempt to improve their processes. Finally, company announcements and company metrics for safety, quality, delivery and revenue are covered. Outsiders are encouraged to experience these high-energy meetings first-hand.

Learn through exposure (benchmarking)

Mike Taylor, who works in pre-paint, is a volunteer member of the Cambridge External Lean Exposure Team. “About ten of us are on the team,” Taylor said. “We are in charge of finding other companies doing lean, where we can learn from them. Our goal is 100 percent external opportunities (every Cambridge employee visiting at least one other facility) by May 2018; we’re now at about 70 percent.

“We try to take one nugget from every place we visit – something we can use in our lean projects,” added Taylor. “For example, one of the main things we focus on is visual cues throughout the plant – labeled parts, visual cues for replacing parts so that you can go ahead and order parts while you keep working. We bring back ideas to our team, and if it’s low-cost and not affecting safety or quality, we can implement changes ourselves. We have the freedom to make our lives easier.”

Part Four of this Series will be released on Wednesday, January 24th! Make sure to check back to finish the series!

Great People, Ideas, Processes and Products

A Four Part Series

on Posted on

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication.
Authored by Lea Tonkin

Part Two of a Four Part Series. Miss Part One? Click Here to Read!

 

Great People, Ideas, Processes and Products

“For us, lean is about people and people growth,” said Sitton. “It’s not something that is simply implemented. You can’t just drop it on people.” Key elements in creating lean understanding include lean classes for all new hires using “2 Second Lean” as a guide, and then taking them out to the shop floor and asking them to stand there and look for the eight types of waste. “Within ten minutes, they typically see 20 to 50 wastes,” Sitton said.

The company also gives employee time on the clock to read “2 Second Lean” and to discuss the book in a team setting, encouraging employees to “go and see” waste and to develop remedies for eliminating waste in their work areas. “With ‘two-second lean,’ you have simplicity, breaking things down so everybody can make a great process and a great product,” said Sitton.

This expectation reflects a significant transition from Cambridge’s initial lean efforts, when senior leadership and engineers usually initiated lean improvements. “That idea only works for owners of the company,” said Sitton. “We realized that we needed more people who buy into the culture, with a sense of ownership. Now we develop people with a sense of trust, who are able to see waste and fix what’s bugging them, and they now all respond as owners.”

Fast start for new employees

New employees are encouraged to jump right into lean improvements at Cambridge. Justin Meade, a general laborer who works on wiring panels,said he got started with innovative changes in the first week after he joined the company, about two and a half years ago.

“When I first started an assembly job, it wasn’t very fun,” said Meade. “Then, after seeing some others’ videos, I started on improvements – first, a small project, putting tools that were scattered all over onto a shadow board.” Over a period of six months, Meade developed a cart furnished with parts, plus a trash can and tools needed to eliminate wasted movement and space during his daily tasks. He made videos of several improvement iterations, modifying and later eliminating the old cart. Along the way, he got help from a sheet metal team member, a welder and others in creating the new cart. Now, everything that’s needed, tools and parts, is in one area. “It used to take an hour and a half to do a particular job. Now the process takes 20 to 25 minutes a unit,” said Meade. “I just went ahead with it, after talking with my team lead, Scott Moore, who encouraged me to make the changes.”

Meade said he continues to gain improvement ideas and inspiration from participation in morning employee meetings. “I like that everyone here updated about how the company is doing financially. We’re also encouraged to give input on company goals,” he said.

“Lean and clean time” – about a half hour from 8:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. every day, is when every employee is encouraged to scout for improvement ideas. It also provides opportunities for “finding out what bugs us most and then fixing it,” said Meade.

Part Three of this Series will be released on Thursday, January 18th! Make sure to check back to finish the series!

Growing, Engaging People Every Day In Lean

A Four Part Series

on Posted on

Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2017 issue of Target, an AME Publication.
Authored by Lea Tonkin

Cambridge Engineering employees are growing even faster than the company

Inspiring stories about lean and enterprise-wide transformation can sometimes seem too good to be true. This is the feeling Marc Braun, president of Cambridge Engineering, Inc. in Chesterfield, Missouri has about the company’s cultural transformation during the past several years. “It is incredibly humbling to walk into the plant and see how our people are growing and how much joy lean has brought into their lives,” Braun said. “You wouldn’t believe it unless you experienced it for yourself.”

The family-owned heating and ventilation system manufacturing company is known for high-quality products and a strong family culture. What’s happening now, through lean, is different. John Kramer, Jr., chairman and CEO, shared, “People know me as a being a big dreamer, but the impact our people at Cambridge are making in others’ lives exceeds my wildest dreams. I believe the journey we are on is one that will ultimately restore glory and dignity to manufacturing in America.”

Introducing lean concepts in the plant more than ten years ago seemed a logical step to Kramer. Many experts said to start with 5S improvement projects, train the workforce on Japanese terms, and then add a host of metrics and plan white boards – adding to the mix of daily priorities. Although some progress was made during this time, it was top-down driven and merely tolerated rather than embraced by employees. “There were too many metrics, and there was too much focus on cost rather than on people,” Kramer noted. “Our busy season (fall through January) would hit, and I would tell my people to stop improvements and ship products. All of our lean principles would go out the window, as people didn’t have time to make improvements. Although I had a glimpse of the vision of a lean culture, many times it felt like we were going backward rather than forward.”

Staying focused: A Turning Point

After working with an executive coach and following the plan for organizational health described in Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Advantage,” Kramer determined that his leadership was the biggest challenge and barrier to making the cultural changes he envisioned in the company. “I would whipsaw the organization in a million directions without giving them the chance to make progress,” he said. “Once I stopped and allowed the team to focus on the key areas for success, and develop a rhythm and pace, the cultural progress started to come alive.”

During this period of growth, operational team members came back after a lean benchmarking trip to FastCap Paul Akers’ facility in Washington state. “They were excited about his book, ‘2 Second Lean,” Kramer said. “They had met with Paul and learned that you can take something complex and make it simple- a way for people to make improvements and prosper. We starting making simple improvements, opening up more dialog with our employees. The concept was embraced by our organizational leadership and also resonated with me and our executive team members, because it focused on people growth and engagement. Because it was so simple to understand and was people-focused, the team was able to quickly share with others inside the company, and we haven’t looked back since.” Akers strongly encourages readers to start their lean journey by learning to see waste, allowing people to “fix what bugs them,” and then to make short videos for sharing improvements with others.

“I remember how excited our leaders became about the concepts taught in “2 Second Lean.” Their courage to try something new and experiment with videos was amazing,” said Braun, who was the executive vice president of sales and marketing at the time. “Our marketing department had utilized video sparingly. We had a collection of several videos reflecting the “Cambridge Story,” and little presence on YouTube. The company now has more than 4,300 videos created by employees, demonstrating their genius. It has been like pouring gasoline on a fire.” Here’s where employees shine, as they share one-minute videos they’ve made about recent improvements. Sometimes there are accounts of rapid changes to eliminate wasted steps or prevent over-reaching at a work station, for example; or there may be videos reflecting several improvements over an extended period of time. “Making videos of your improvements helps to reinforce that you are making a contribution, “ said Greg Sitton, plant manager. Every employee is encouraged to make one-minute videos. Although some associates readily take to the camera, others need help and teammates step in to capture the improvements.

To see an associate video, click here.

Stay tuned for the next installment to be published January 16th!  

Creative Emceeing Makes the Morning Meeting Much More Fun!

on Posted on

Part of the personal growth effort of Cambridge includes encouraging each employee to feel more confident speaking in front of a large group and other public speaking opportunities. The “practice” of this improvement comes in the form of taking turns to Emcee the morning meeting that we hold out in the shop every day. Each Emcee can speak to whatever they’d like as the group stretches – some take the chance to talk about their families or hometowns, others give trivia and yet, others – like Steve, our Controller – take the opportunity to be creative.

Watch the video below to see how Steve used his introduction time!

Restoring Glory and Dignity to U.S. Manufacturing

on Posted on

For those of us working in an office, a manufacturing plant, a warehouse or a commercial retail environment, we spend about 2,350  hours a year at work.    As you reflect on your own working hours annually, think about how that might compare to the time you get to spend with your family.   For the M-F working adult, this generally leaves about 2,350 hours with your family after work M-F and Saturday-Sunday to be present as a father, mother, sister, brother, daughter or son.  While the percentages may vary greatly by individual, the amount of time one spends at work is significant.  Being fulfilled at work through accomplishment and influence has been shown to translate into positive energy at home.  Conversely, plodding, struggling and frustration at work without influence to make needed changes, results in people carrying negative energy and stress home to their families and or friends.

 

Cambridge Engineering, Inc. exists to glorify God by enriching the life of every person we touch.   We are working hard to build a better experience for people that we meet each day at work, whether that is an internal team member, a customer, a service support vendor or a supplier.   When people go home from work fulfilled they can be better fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons.   Healthy families contribute to healthy communities and healthy communities will lead to a more healthy country.

John Kramer, Jr., Cambridge’s CEO, speaks frequently on this message of glory and dignity in the factory and it really resonates with me.  I’ve been witness to a transformation in people engagement at Cambridge Engineering, Inc. and it started with a group of committed people on the production floor.   With some help from a mentor, Paul Akers, and a highly energized group of manufacturing companies across the U.S., Cambridge was encouraged to learn about how to eliminate struggles in the plant.  Our 2-Second Lean journey (Paul Akers) gained incredible momentum due to the simplicity of the message and it’s foundations in humility.  It was sustainable because of the sincerity of our manager’s, leader’s and owner’s commitment to enrich the lives of the people we touch.

Two years ago there were no fancy top down internal marketing campaigns to pitch the problem solving process to the organization.   Through a small group of committed production and supply chain leaders, a continuous improvement mindset and total employee engagement process was born.   This small team set the foundation that literally created energy, excitement, exploration, creativity and inspiration within the factory and across all departments.  Cambridge has now documented with video, nearly 4,000 improvements.

I can say without hesitation that during my 4 years, the Cambridge organization has significantly contributed to my being a better husband, father, brother and son.   Knowing that the work that we are doing here in Chesterfield, MO supports better environments for people across North America working in the warehouse and manufacturing segments is highly motivating.  We are definitely not short on the things we need to accomplish across the sales, marketing and service organization. Operating in this type of environment makes everything flow better.  Unconditional love for who people are (not what they do) and high performance expectations are woven into the culture.

Cambridge Engineering, Inc. exists to enrich the lives of everyone we come in contact with.     We do this by making commercial and industrial HVAC equipment to improve lives.  Supporting building owners and facility leaders that desire glory and dignity at work is very cool!

About Cambridge Engineering, Inc…..

For more than 50 years, Cambridge Engineering, Inc. has been committed to enriching the lives of its people, customers and suppliers through the design, manufacture and application of space heating, ventilation (make-up air) and cooling products in commercial and industrial facilities.  Cambridge Engineering’s 120-employee operation and its network of 400-plus sales representatives have been helping manufacturers, distribution business owners and operators, facility managers, design engineers and mechanical contractors to create better indoor working environments through even temperatures and improved indoor air quality (IAQ) in warehouses, sports facilities and other high-bay spaces. The company has invested heavily in research and development to offer HTHV (high temperature heating and ventilation) products that significantly save energy and reduce operating costs. Whether in new construction or existing facility retrofits, Cambridge Engineering’s Made-To-Order design, fabrication and testing process ensures that each HVAC system is certified safe with unsurpassed product quality.

With more than 37,000 system installations and 2.5 billion square feet of buildings served, Cambridge celebrates its customers’ commitment to an improved working environment for people on the factory or warehouse floor. Cambridge is an active member of the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Alliance, an initiative of manufacturers and businesses dedicated to reducing energy consumption in commercial spaces. Cambridge is headquartered in Chesterfield, Missouri.  www.cambridge-eng.com.

Meet Scott Moore from the S-series Department

Another video in our "Make a Difference" series

on Posted on

Here is another of the behind the scene faces here at Cambridge Engineering that you wouldn’t normally get to meet but make a profound difference in our culture and our desire to manufacture the highest quality products for you….our customer.

Today we are pleased to introduce to you Scott Moore from our S-series department. Scott leads the team that manufacturers our S-series products and is also a Lean leader here at Cambridge. You can also find Scott helping out at Christmas as one of Santa’s many helpers. Oh yea, he is also another one of our all around great guys here at Cambridge. We hope you enjoy his video.

For more videos from Cambridge Engineering visit our Youtube page at https://www.youtube.com/user/CambridgeEngineering

Meet Tommy in the Sheetmetal Department

A new video series showcasing the many different people at Cambridge who strive to "Make a Difference"

on Posted on

We thought it would be fun to introduce the many behind the scene faces here at Cambridge Engineering that you wouldn’t normally get to meet but make a profound difference in our culture and our desire to manufacture the highest quality products for you….our customer. Every couple of weeks we will post a new video of one of our team members that “Make a Difference” her at Cambridge.

This month we are pleased to introduce to you Tommy Davidson from our sheetmetal department. Tommy is a Lean leader here at Cambridge as well as a all around great guy. We hope you enjoy his video.

 

For more videos from Cambridge Engineering visit our Youtube page at https://www.youtube.com/user/CambridgeEngineering

Your Customers Define Your Value; Customer Advisory Boards provide the framework to listen

on Posted on

Truly understanding your customer’s needs and the value they place on your products and services is paramount to success in business. Defining and refining your value to the customer takes total organizational alignment. Alignment around the importance of the information and collaboration around collecting it, communicating it, and acting on it are vital.

value concept handwritten on blackboard

value concept handwritten on blackboard

Customer Advisory Boards are a great way to engage the leadership in your own organization. They allow you to capture candid feedback on measuring existing corporate value statements against your messaging across the company. Are your value statements landing? Do they resonate with the people receiving them? What would your customers say is most important to them?

Customer Advisory Boards provide three major benefits to an organization.
1. Deepening Relationships with Customers
2. Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language
3. Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps

Deepening Relationships: People do business with people they like. Putting people together with one purpose, “How can we help one another achieve more together?” or better yet, “How can I help you over achieve for your organization? My win is wrapped up in yours.” Putting your customers together with your business leaders across the enterprise can create awesome bonding and momentum.

Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language:
We all want to be spoken to in our own value language. I can be just as guilty as the next of projecting what I think is important to customers rather than speaking in their terms. “Energy efficiency is important to building owners and facilities managers,” I state. The customer stated, “Energy efficiency is really important to owners, but I also want to cut 2% out of the total costs of the project. That is more important right now. Can you help me do that?” How valuable is your proposed solution in the language of the customer? Go well beyond economic value to draw out all things valuable and then have your Customer Advisory Board rank them. Then, and this is key, change your language based on their responses and challenge the list continuously through an ongoing Advisory Board engagement process.

Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps: Through intentional questioning, you can uncover items requiring your organizations attention. What is the number one problem you are facing with the use of our product? Share with us any challenges you’ve had with our products? What else have you experienced? How many times has that occurred? How would you suggest we improve what we’re doing? What are others doing in this space that you feel is innovative? A great way to clear the session of any fear of sharing “bad news” is to coordinate a pre-Advisory Board survey that probes into improvement areas. Also, don’t defend or justify any mistakes or gaps. Just reply, “Thank you for sharing that.” Your customers will share openly if their input is appreciated and not explained away.

Build an Advisory Board and you’ll build a deeper relationship with your customers, knowing how to speak their language and fine tune your products/services for success.

Have you created or participated on an Advisory Board? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.

LEAN Sales Cycle – What are you doing to apply LEAN principles to your sales process?

on Posted on

Our Senior Leadership team recently returned from Japan where they were on an educational journey to bring back ideas from Japanese businesses that had been working on LEAN initiatives for many decades. Their trip included a visit to Lexus, the luxury car maker and part of the Toyota family of brands. As they were departing for their trip I asked that they solicit feedback from the Japanese companies regarding LEAN and it’s applications to sales organizations.

Continue Reading »

It Takes Humility to be a Lean Leader

on Posted on

Recently, in my first blog post, I asked the questions, “Why do financial executives so frequently find themselves following, rather than leading, during a LEAN initiative? Has your company implemented LEAN in the finance/accounting area? If not, why not?” It is my experience that the single biggest obstacle to a creating a truly LEAN culture in an organization is the character of the leaders tasked with implementation. And, among the character traits that we will discuss in these series of blog posts, I truly believe that HUMILITY is at the heart of, and foundational to, any successful effort at LEAN leadership.

Continue Reading »