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Sep 12, 2023

TeamSense Road Trip – Build It and They Will Combine

How the friction caused by absenteeism at a top agriculture equipment maker inhibits the kaizen in their manufacturing operations

“If some problem occurs in one-piece flow manufacturing then the whole production line stops. In this sense it is a very bad system of manufacturing. But when production stops everyone is forced to solve the problem immediately.”

—Teruyuki Minoura, former President, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, North America (excerpt from “The Toyota Way”)

If you’re following the story of our TeamSense road trip, you may have read my post about our visit to a company that makes fire engines, military transports, and delivery vehicles. You can read about that here.

We rose early the next morning, after our flight to the heartland, and headed for a modern-day field of dreams. Not baseball but a 400-acre field of industry. The site was owned and operated by an agricultural machinery manufacturer. The company makes heavy equipment such as tractors, combines, and tillage equipment. Under a clear blue sky, the morning sun beat down, and we could almost hear the soybeans, wheat and corn growing nearby.

The site employs around 1,100 hourly workers. It's the largest employer in the county and pays the highest wages. People want to work there and seldom leave. One employee at work that day has been with the company for sixty-five years. Tenures of fifteen to twenty years are common.

As we toured the many buildings, I began to suspect that high wages weren’t the only reason for loyalty. Our guide knew the place like the back of her hand, after only six months on the job. As she led us through the different sites (divided according to stage of production) we walked between the yellow lines painted on the floor. Workers were focused on their welding, fitting or assemblies. Their heads were down, intent on the work. Yet as we approached, almost everyone took a second to look up. They nodded, smiled, or gave us a wave.

TeamSense Team Walking the Factory Floor

Kaizen in the Gemba: Observing, Thinking and Experimenting

The satisfaction behind those waves and smiles may have been partially due to high wages. However, I think the intentional experience created all along the line helped the team members observe, think and experiment to improve the quality and efficiency of their work. They were part of a bigger process and they knew it.

Signs posted reminders of manufacturing best practices cataloged by Jeffrey Liker in his book about the Toyota Production System (“TPS”). The book is called The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer. Principle #10 in the book is: Develop Exceptional People and Teams Who Follow Your Company’s Philosophy. Liker further explains how Toyota organizes processes in the factory to empower individual workers, in the gemba, the place where the work gets done:

“Why would we think of workers doing short-cycle, repetitive manual jobs as drivers of continuous improvement? After all, they usually have less formal education than management, they may not be as articulate or well read, they are paid less, and they have control over a very limited part of the factory. Toyota’s answer is that what really matters is making improvements at the gemba, and the team members are the ones at the gemba, personally experiencing the processes and living with the equipment. Toyota needs team members to be observing, thinking, and experimenting.”

I also saw terms like “Kaizen” printed out around the factory. Investopedia gives this definition for Kaizen:

“Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning change for the better or continuous improvement. It is a Japanese business philosophy that concerns the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process.”

The three pillars of kaizen are housekeeping, the elimination of waste, and standardization.

The 5S method organizes and optimizes the workplace. It helps with kaizen implementation by creating a clean, safe, and efficient environment. The pillars of 5S are: Sort (Seiri), Set in Order (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke).

Work Center Activity Board Showing Kaizen and 5S

Attendance Management Needs Some Housekeeping

The flow of kaizen activity in the factory contrasted starkly with how the company’s HR team described their call-off process. Rather than housekeeping, the elimination of waste, and standardization, they described a highly variable process that wasted a lot of time. Our hosts felt excited about TeamSense because adopting it would bring TPS-like rigor and discipline to their chaotic attendance management.

Currently, employees call-off via voice or email. The HR team enters absentee points in their Ceridian Dayforce HCM platform. They give employees one point for every absence. The company terminates employees who reach their point limit. Supervisors also look up points for performance reviews. The HR team spends 12-20 hours entering points into Dayforce every week. This is above and beyond time spent listening to voicemails and reading emails. Predictable data entry errors can lead to disagreements between the employee, their union, and the company.

As I walked the floor, surrounded by kaizen for manufacturing, I kept asking myself the same question. Why hadn’t they applied the same continuous improvement to attendance management and their call-off process?

The TeamSense call-off solution could free the HR team from wasting time with manual data entry. Instead, employees would send a text to TeamSense from their own mobile device. They would click the absence reason themselves. The details would flow directly into Ceridian, through a pre-built TeamSense integration. The HR team could stop with the morning email and voicemail reviews. The need to do that would vanish.

Best of all, every employee texting a call-off could be reminded instantly about how many points they have. This would give them the chance to reconsider. Our customers with points notifications have reduced absenteeism by 20-40%, and they head off unwanted terminations. The following image shows a fictional example of how that would work.

Points Screenshot

If this looks good, book a demo, and we’ll show you how it works.

As we left the last building in the tour, we saw two finished pieces of equipment rolling out for delivery. Each one sells for about a million dollars. How many hours of work went into each one?

Kaizen can work for attendance management like it does for manufacturing.

Effortless Attendance Tracking, Just a Text Away

Talk with TeamSense and learn how HelloFresh saved hours managing attendance through text.

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