The headline read “Cultural fence-mending unfinished.” Turning to the editorial page brings to light the issue of insufficient household income. It goes on to explain education may be one of the few ways out.
In this fairy-tale story, imagine an industrial plant of 6000 employees of a corporation once ranked the 38th largest company in the world. The plant was unionized. It was managed in a team-type concept but for the most part still operated in the same manner as most businesses.
It was negotiation time, and the plant was profitable but had pressure from competitor prices and cost reduction pricing on just-in-time delivery process. The plant manager, who we’ll call John, came to negotiations saying the corporation put five plants on the list of concessions. We were one of those plants.
As hard as this is to believe, John told the corporation we could make their money without taking concessions. This wouldn’t happen in the real world. The odds of hitting a big lottery would be better. Let’s just say the corporation took the plant off the list even though John had no further conversations until negotiations was over.
Several months after negotiations were settled, the plant profits showed little improvement. Reports were shared with union leadership. John declares if it doesn’t improve, he won’t be the one giving reports next month. He calls his managers together and tells them what he wants and expects. If it isn’t followed, prepare their resume.
A total team concept was born. John instructed management any meeting needed to have a hourly person in meetings. If he walked into a meeting where that didn’t happen, the meeting would be over, and he would address it with the person calling the meeting. It only took one incident to get his message across.
By the end of six months, the plant was showing improvement in profit along with scrap reduction. John spent every day on the floor talking to hourly employees as he made his rounds. His philosophy was don’t just tell me the problem, tell me how to fix it. Attitudes started to change as everyone became a part of the decision-making process, and profits continued to grow.
The corporation notices the productivity increases and questions John if the plant has changed the way it figured it. What was averaging about 72 percent is now running mid to high 80s. “No,” answers John and directs them to increased profits being the telltale sign. Yearly grievances went from averaging 200 to almost single-digit numbers. Goal setting moved from monthly to weekly to daily. The corporation started to take notice.
Every year, plant managers assembled for a week to cover their plants’ performance and future estimates for the following year. The presentation will be to the CEO, chairman and board members of the corporation. For John, it was just one more sign of his dedication to teamwork. For the first time in the history of the corporation, the person giving the report wasn’t a plant manager but a hourly person off the floor. Profits had soared, and the presentation impressed them all.
So impressed, the CEO started sending other industries to John’s plant to see the things they were doing. A nationally known ice cream company out of Canada brings management and hourly in to spend a day in John’s plant.
Next, they send a major transportation company to include its management, hourly and the CEO of its company. It was a plant of 600 people sharing with major companies how to operate their business for success.
John took the plant from what would have been concessions to now being a plant considered a shining star. What he did allowed everyone a voice in managing their area and being a part of total team concept.
In ending this fairy-tale story, you can drive by the corporation headquarters to view its name on the building. Along with it is a slogan in large print. The slogan was one coming from an hourly person off the floor of John’s plant.
I tell this story because I have lived in Lima all my life. There is nothing we can’t do if we put our minds to it and work together listening to each other. Be it education, poverty, crime or cultural change, teamwork is the answer.
Oh! I forgot to tell you the fairy tale is factual and true.
Gary Frueh has been active in the Democratic party in Allen County as well as organized labor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His opinion does not necessarily represent the views of The Lima News or its owner, AIM Media.