Transform from the inside. Sometimes, the most valuable solutions are the ones that already exist within your organization. This principle was pointed out by keynote speaker, Billy Ray Taylor, the Director of Commercial Manufacturing for Goodyear, using a graphic of workers pushing a wagon with square wheels. The graphic depicted the struggle of pushing this wagon. However, the wagon was already carrying circular wheels. The workers were so distracted with the work that they neglected to notice the shape on the circular wheels on the inside.

Companies tend to work so hard to try to get a project done that they do not examine the problems and think about how to solve those specific problems. In his keynote address, Taylor said that the greatest solutions to problems for a company are within its operations. The reward is in the process which must be proved, trusted, challenged, and then replicated.

The solution is not a quick fix. Taylor pointed out that discovery matters in order to be effective with a solution. He noted a quote from Albert Einstein to back up his point: “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.” Laying the groundwork of understanding is more important that the time spent on solving it. If a problem is well understood, there will not need to be a lot of time spent implementing a solution. The solution will fix issues exactly how they need to be fixed.

Innovative Solutions Within Your Workforce: Day 3 of the Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo

Solutions are not solved by one person, instead, they are solved by a team. A team must feel valued. If a team feels they have respect and a voice, they will put more into an organization, thus keeping problems to a minimum and increasing the quality of the product or service that a company offers. Involving all voices brings clarity to a solution, allowing for a thorough understanding that involves the small window of defining the solution that Albert Einstein discussed. Well-understood solutions are much more simple than ones that involve guessing. According to Taylor, 20% of a product’s offer will deliver 80% of benefits sought out by customers.

Ultimately, in order to find a problem, understand it, and solve only that problem without influencing the sectors doing well, takes the leaders working for their team, according to Taylor. While some might assume teams work for leaders, the reality is that leaders work for their teams, empowering them to have a voice and find a solution.

One of they key aspects of discovering solutions is listening to all members who are encountering the problem. Sometimes, their suggested solutions might seem quite different from many older practices, but in today’s evolving manufacturing landscape, this innovation is needed. While a lot of season professionals who have been in the workforce for many years may have great suggestions, take time to listen to the millennial members of the workforce as well. By listening, you’ll not only open the door to new possibilities, you’ll also contribute to retention of this generation.

Every employee wants three things: to matter, to work on meaningful projects, and to know the difference their work is making in a workplace. Brent Robertson, Partner at Fathom, and Brett Greene, President at Willington Nameplate, discussed building a multi-generational workforce in their session, “Mastering the Millennial Workforce.”

The workplace is changing. Sometimes older manufacturers will place blame on the younger workforce but that’s just an excuse, Robertson pointed out. Conditions need to be created for success across all generations which requires for leaders to put aside their worldviews and start considering what their workforce has to say. This ties into Taylor’s notion that leaders work for their team. Figure out the definition for success for your employees and in return tell them your definition of success.

Innovative Solutions Within Your Workforce: Day 3 of the Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo

Although these definitions may differ, they are important to the success of an organization. The notion “adapt or perish” is true. Robertson mentioned that while certain organizations are resisting change, others are embracing it and thus flourishing. The younger generations have grown up in a time when things are different from their parents, particularly when it comes to jobs. They have seen their parents get laid off after working for a company for many years. No longer do they see time as a measure deserving of recognition, rather they value being rewarded for the impact they have.

Greene pointed out that leadership abilities have no age limit and younger generations possess the tools to make an impact on problem solving. He also noted that if the first try doesn’t work, try something else, and then try again. Failures will happen, but it’s important to try, to learn from mistakes, and then to make changes.

By accessing the tools on the inside of your organization, the answers to many of your solutions are already present. Ask around on the floor and in the offices to see where changes need to be made. Ask for input from everyone and keep an open mind. Support your teams, because when you do, they’ll bring your company more value.

The Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo (M&T Show) closes out today. We’d like to thank the shows sponsors and IndustryWeek for putting on an excellent event. We look forward to returning in the future!




Manufacturing, News