Companies need to be agile – capable of changing in response to movements in the business environment in which they operate. Those companies that are attuned to their markets, competitors and customers – and that have the inherent ability to change quickly to market demands or opportunities – are in a far stronger position to compete successfully.
However, the challenge facing the vast majority of UK businesses is in creating an organisational structure that has this agility built in. Most organisations are too rigid and incapable of tapping into the rich resources held within the company – its employees. People are the key to enabling change and to unlocking value in the business. Those working close to a broken process, or one which needs to change, are far more likely to find a solution if they are brought to focus on the problem collectively. So, given the right tools, people can be empowered to change the business for the better.
To bring a workforce ‘alive’ and aligned to the best interests of the business requires a set of processes and tools to be introduced that facilitate employee engagement. Standardisation of these processes is particularly important in ensuring consistency across a number of geographical locations – a hugely difficult task. At Unipart Logistics we have a well proven methodology for achieving change and ensuring that it is a continuous process.
The Unipart Way encourages employees to work in teams and to constantly monitor and question the efficiency of the tasks they perform. The ‘Faculty on the Floor’ is a specially equipped training room located within the operations and set aside for this purpose. Within the Faculty, teams meet on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to review performance against key performance indicators set in accordance with customer goals. A series of tools are used to examine processes and drive performance, delivering greater value to the customer. Employees are also encouraged to use the ‘Unipart Way Online’, a continuously increasing knowledge base that allows them to research solutions to their problems and share Best Practice across the organisation.
Employee motivation and training are core aspects of Unipart Logistics’ pursuit of Best Practice principles, with problem solving taking place in the workplace – on the job and during the job. This is set in motion by a stepped approach to training known as the ‘Gate to Great’ journey, leading the individual through five levels of competence – see, learn, do, teach, coach. ‘Gate to Great’ is an employee development programme encouraging every employee to reach their full potential. The first steps of ‘see’ and ‘learn’ enable the individual to first experience best practice skills in the workplace and then be taught how to apply them in their own area of work. A structured programme of skills development and assessments provides a path for employees to follow, ultimately leading to a level of expertise, where they can coach others.
Standard Work is a technique used to determine the best practice for a particular task, considering work sequence and layout requiring the team to map out the processes, work sequences and information flows to derive the best cycle-time for the task. Once Standard Work has been conducted for an operation it can be put into action by all to ensure that the team is working to the most efficient method.
Workplace Audits are also conducted by trained members of the team to ensure continuous improvement and that standards are maintained. This process highlights the opportunities for improvement and helps eliminate waste.
One of the most impressive tools available to employees is Creative Problem Solving, where teams work together to find the best solution to a problem by breaking down complexity and using a structured process to identify the root cause and then the best countermeasure.
However, there are barriers to change that need to be overcome. Perhaps one of the greatest is a natural suspicion – why is the change necessary? Good communications and openness helps build trust and helps people to understand that change is necessary and in the best interests of all concerned.
If companies are to build agility into their organisation, they must look long and hard at the way they engage with, and motivate, their workforce. Introducing a sound methodology for delivering change relies on a clear understanding of the way people work best together – and that takes time and experience to fully realise.
Bernard Molloy is global industrial logistics director, Unipart Logistics