The Innovative Labor Organization Master Class gives employers the opportunity to help keep their organization competitive, while remaining attractive to customers. Moreover, through their innovation , participants will also learn to develop their skills and strengthen the teams in which they work. As a result, the quality of the labor force itself will improve within the organization. We spoke to four organizations which have successfully completed the Master Class and reaped positive rewards.
Niko, TE Connectivity, Janssen Pharmaceutica and Terumo all have implemented thorough efficiency changes in recent years. These changes mainly originate from the principles of the Innovative Labor Organization Master Class. Hence, Niko and TE Connectivity have chosen to commit themselves to evolution and flexibility. Niko found its growth strategy in Quick Response Manufacturing, while TE Connectivity focused on self-managing teams. Janssen Pharmaceutica and Terumo also developed autonomous teams and efficient teamwork. Finally, the latter two have focused specifically on talent development. The Innovative Labor Organization Master Class is clearly yielding results.
Niko, the well-known manufacturer of switches and doorbells, chiefly focuses on the principles of Quick Response Manufacturing and Innovative Labor Organization. “This is our growth strategy,” says Niko Operations Director Goedele Heylen. “More and more clients want customized manufacturers and technology is increasingly playing a pivotal role in this. To best meet these requirements, we chose to focus on Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM).” This is a way of organizing that primarily centers on reducing the total lead time. “We have done this successfully: our service level has risen, we have grown, we have a wider variety of end products and, at the same time, we have been able to reduce our stock.”
"Our service level has risen, we have grown, we have a wider variety of end products and, at the same time, we have been able to reduce our stock.”
“The QRM principles only work in an Innovative Labor Organization (ILO)”, Goedele emphasizes. That is why Niko got involved in a learning network. “Our future will be created by our people, by their involvement, their pride and their desires. When faced with a complex, volatile outside world, you should equip your organization with the flexibility to handle it. We want to redefine our employees; rather than being pure specialists, we want them to be people who are able to complete a variety of tasks. If you give people the right opportunities, they will be able to make work-oriented decisions all by themselves. At present, we are focusing on the primary process, the manual montage. Our operational teams have to be able to carry out a process by themselves, without depending on executives, for example. This way, they will work more efficiently and find better methods of processing more orders.”
"Our people will work more efficiently and find better methods of processing more orders.”
Multinational TE Connectivity, the automotive sector component manufacturer, praises the Innovative Labor Organization principles as well. “The automobile sector is a demanding market,” explains Plant Manager Eric Verhelst. “Higher demands are imposed on quality, flexibility and just-in-time deliveries.” Those high demands lead to more stress and pressure in the workplace. “To meet our customers’ high demands and expectations, we wanted to evolve to become a flexible organization where technological innovation is key, and where employees feel at ease.”
“Step by step, we are evolving towards working in self-managing teams within an agile process organization. Teamwork is paramount and we deploy people and resources according to our objectives.” This new organizational system capitalizes on employees’ intrinsic skills and competences. In other words: working together is an improvement, and a team has to be greater than the sum of its parts.
“To meet our customers’ high demands and expectations, we wanted to evolve to become a flexible organization where technological innovation is key, and where employees feel at ease.”
Johnson & Johnson, and hence Janssen Pharmaceutica, has followed the same rationale in their search for an optimized organizational system which best meets patient needs. “About four years ago, there was a demand from the operators to be more involved in daily operational activities,” says Program Manager Guy Mannaerts of Janssen Pharmaceutica. “Moreover, they wanted better cooperation between supporting departments by setting up shorter and more efficient interactions, so that production processes would run more smoothly.” Hence they redefined their organizational structure. The supervisor’s role was replaced by two new jobs: a team coach and an Operation Support. Another important adjustment was shortening the supporting services. “By physically placing them in the same space and working on partnerships, the lines became shorter and decisions were taken more quickly.”
“We thought we could achieve increased efficiency through a flat organizational structure. And, four years on, that does indeed seem to be the case.”
Likewise, Terumo also went for a flat organizational structure, including autonomous teams, with overall increased annual efficiency as their objective. “In 2009, I started out as Production Manager,” says Steve Vits. “I immediately faced an enormous challenge. To maintain our competitive position, senior management decided that we had to meet an increased annual efficiency target, and that we had to look for other ways to improve our efficiency.” The feedback of production workers, who claimed that they wanted more and could do more, inspired Steve Vits to implement the principle of ‘self-managing teams’. “We thought we could achieve increased efficiency through a flat organizational structure. And, four years on, that does indeed seem to be the case.” Thanks to this innovative form of work organization, half of their target has already been achieved.
"People now experience greater job satisfaction because they have more freedom when it comes to fulfilling their daily range of duties.”
“What’s more, this increased efficiency did not only manifest itself as an increased volume of end products. For example, we also noticed that our employees like to address each other personally. People now experience greater job satisfaction because they have more freedom when it comes to fulfilling their daily range of duties.”
Finally, the Janssen Pharmaceutica operators also requested more scope for personal talent development. “Our organization’s existing talent was under-utilized,” explains Guy Mannaerts. “That is why we developed the ‘talent card game’. Using special playing cards, employees have to name each other’s talents in work situations so that, by the end of the game, each player must have five talents in his or her possession. Those talents will be discussed later on, during a personal development interview.” Moreover, we also review how employees can put their talent to work in the workplace.
"The fact that people are rewarded for meeting the set targets – like the right to flexible working hours – ensures that the principle of autonomous teams results in an annual efficiency increase.”
For Terumo, making better use of employees’ talents also resulted in higher volumes and better quality. “The beauty of autonomous teams is that everyone is free to do whatever he or she feels most comfortable with. Everyone can develop their talents and continue to learn new skills, which paves the way for greater job satisfaction and motivation. The fact that people are rewarded for meeting the set targets – like the right to flexible working hours – ensures that the principle of autonomous teams results in an annual efficiency increase.”
What can your organization get out of the Innovative Labor Organization Master Class?