I recently left the annual manufacturing manager’s meeting with a reminder of just how many things plant leaders are being asked to do these days. Customers are more demanding every day, EHS expectations are ever increasing, operational expectations are full of focus areas, paper seems to always be in short supply, corporate groups seem to want more and more information all the time, and the resources to get all this done seem to always be limited.

So how does a plant leader effectively manager through all this stuff and provide the leadership a facility needs?

Go back to basic, core values that drive any leader’s focus:

1. Take care of your people.
a. Safety: Make sure you have a solid safety approach to getting work done every day. Training is effective. Leaders are targeting observations in areas of high concern. Employees are involved in observations and making meaningful contact with one another daily. Pre task assessments are being done effectively. Incidents are being investigated and acted upon timely.
b. Engagement: People need to know we care. People need to know they are accountable. People need to be involved. We must communicate effectively and often. Everything we focus on comes back to what’s in the best interest of our people. They need to both know that and work in that manner. Leaders engage every day.

2.Take care of your customers.
a. We must be committed to the quality system without compromise. Everyone is part of customer service and needs to realize that without customers, we don’t have jobs.
b. We must provide outstanding service in all respects. (on time delivery, outstanding communication, onsite technical support)
c. What matters to customers, must matter to us.

3.Take care of your business.
a. Meeting throughput goals every day and reducing waste are the key drivers to controlling operating cost. Work the detail plans daily and drive improvement every day.
b. Reliability and uptime will also be a key metric to operational success, whether we are talking run rate, waste, or quality.

Now those three key focus areas and the action items under those items must be focused on every day. Those are the items that we work on every day that we come to work and must be executed at a high level for us to have success. When we refer to execution, that’s what we must “do”.

Beyond that, we work on other items periodically. Those could include freight cost, starch cost, operating material cost, warehouse operational issues, etc. Plant leaders have to identify the appropriate times to focus on these areas. They are important, but need to be dealt with at the appropriate time and can’t take focus away from those daily focus items noted above. The keys to being effective in these areas is to select the right time to focus on these items and the right people to drive the task teams to work on them. Again, these type things can help a plant improve earnings, but can’t be a distraction from the core items noted above.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Execute the core areas at a high level daily. Get everyone involved and engage daily. Don’t limit what others can do to help.

Lead your people well!

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