As a manufacturer of some of the world’s leading coding, marking, and digital Printing technology, with manufacturing facilities located around the world, Domino faces many of the same challenges as its global manufacturing customers.
As manufacturers, we have all felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and united together to ensure continuation of service and supply while operating in exceptionally uncertain conditions. In light of the dual pressure of both performance and pandemic, we knew we needed to protect not just the health but also the happiness of our employees, all while maintaining best practice in our manufacturing operations.
With this in mind, I would like to share our experience with you, from one manufacturer to another, to show how we have embraced a culture of continuous improvement in our journey towards operational excellence, while keeping the wellbeing of our employees at the centre of everything we do.
At Domino, we place emphasis on the ‘Three Ps’ – ‘People, Process, and Product’ – as the building blocks of any highly successful operation:
- People are the most important resource in a company – ultimately, they are the ones who drive business improvement and so ensuring their motivation, capability, and wellbeing is key
- Processes must support people to work in the most efficient, productive, and safe manner, with use of appropriate technology where it supports operational aims
- Product – of course the product or service needs to have features to meet and exceed the customer’s needs, but it also needs to be designed in a way that supports optimum manufacture, reliability, and serviceability
It sounds a simple approach, but many company product launches miss the focus on at least one of these aspects. From my experience working in manufacturing, simple and visual approaches work best, as any changes have a much better chance of being implemented well and sustained overtime.
People like to know that what they are doing is adding value.
Working is not just about paying the bills. People feel better about themselves, and their work, if they know that what they are doing has a purpose – it is an important part of why people go to work.
At Domino, we have made our company purpose very clear, so that we can motivate and inspire our employees, and ensure that everyone feels aligned with their colleagues, and with the business as a whole:
“To apply industrial printing expertise and reliable solutions to help the world’s manufacturers be sustainable and cut waste while attracting, informing, and protecting consumers.”
You can read more about how we have done this here.
We strive to communicate this purpose at all levels of the business. We also ensure that everybody’s objectives are aligned to key strategies which are in place to help us fulfil the purpose. By doing this, we help to avoid conflicts that can otherwise occur and cause demotivation.
All Domino employees, whether they are an operator on the factory floor, a customer service representative, or a people manager, will have key performance indicators that support their objectives, and will be able to see how these link to our higher-level strategies.
To borrow a simple analogy, we work better together as a business and feel better as people when we are all rowing in the same direction.
Manufacturing processes should be strategically designed and should utilise appropriate technology to support operational aims.
At Domino, our manufacturing process has been designed to support our strategy of producing highly configurable printers for personalised customer choice, in short lead times.
We build all of our printers to order and utilise manufacturing execution system (MES) technology to verify the correct build and prevent mistakes from being passed onto the next stage of the process.
We also employ machine-based decision making at key test points to ensure any potential quality trends or issues are spotted early and rectified. This not only benefits the process, it also helps to improve employee satisfaction levels – after all no-one would like to find out at the very end of the production process that they have been making defects all day!
Utilising these processes and technologies has allowed us to reduce the average time taken to manufacture each machine, because, once sub-assemblies are assembled to a customer order, the process outcome is more predictable.
Identifying process improvements
To maximise potential, manufacturing companies need all their people creating ideas, identifying areas of improvement in systems and processes, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
At Domino, we have an in-house Lean Six Sigma course, and we actively encourage all our employees to participate. Attending the course helps our employees to recognise weak spots in processes, and we actively encourage everyone to put forward ideas for solutions and upgrades and deliver those improvements as individuals or as part of a team.
Our operators live and breathe the manufacturing processes, and we believe they are the best placed to recognise and deliver improvements. We have made it easy for them to submit their ideas by placing scannable QR codes around the factory, and on each workstation. Employees can scan a code at any time and make suggestions for anything from a quick fix to a major business project that needs a cross-functional approach.
Promoting good employee health and wellbeing
Employees are instrumental in achieving success in business – with this in mind, it is paramount to ensure that they feel supported, recognised, and appreciated, and know that their opinions and ideas are heard and acted upon.
At Domino, we have introduced different systems on our production lines to protect the ergonomic health of our operators – this not only helps to prevent injury but also demonstrates that we recognise employee wellbeing as one of the key factors in our decision making when designing and implementing our production processes.
Our workstations are fully customisable and can be tilted and height-adjusted to suit the needs of any operator, to help avoid the need for unnecessary reaching, bending, or twisting. Additionally, we evaluate the ergonomics of our process design on a regular basis.
Our operators also embrace an annual check using technology in a wearable ‘backtrack’ device that buzzes when they make non-preferred movements that could be detrimental to their long-term musculoskeletal health. These devices help to train operators in how they can better protect themselves while collecting data that can be used to identify areas for process improvement.
These may seem like small measures, but they have tangible effects. Our operators know that they are important to us and can see where systems and processes have been introduced to protect their health and wellbeing.
Achieving operational excellence: measuring satisfaction
How do you know that your efforts are paying off? Ask the question.
As a business, we regularly survey our employees around the world and ask how we are doing. We encourage our employees to provide us with their feedback so we know where we can make improvements.
It’s not just our employees who are benefitting. In the last five years we have substantially reduced the lead time for customers of our Ax-Series printers, improved our delivery performance from the factory to world-class levels, and improved customer feedback.
Improving our productivity allows more time for training and development, and investment in generating further process improvements. This cycle of continuous improvement has been enabled by keeping our people at the heart of everything that we do.
My advice to any manufacturing company that strives to achieve operational excellence is to ensure your people are at the heart of it. At Domino, we have done this via the ‘Three Ps’, starting with our people.
In addition, there are several things you can do to help create motivation and manage change:
- Start small
Don’t try to do everything at once. If you are educating your people in continuous improvement, then very soon you will have more ideas and volunteers than you know what to do with. Quick organisational workplace projects work well when ‘before’ and ‘after’ results are publicised to demonstrate gains.
- Make change highly visible
Keep people engaged by demonstrating when new positive initiatives are introduced; this can be anything from investment in company workwear or improvements to decoration and lighting. Make this highly visible and communicate at all levels of the business – and remember to celebrate successes and recognise and reward the new positive behaviours.
- Start with ‘why’
Change can often bring concern and fear – to overcome this make it clear why you are introducing the change. Often, I find the best way to do this, is to explain how this will impact the end customer. We all want to meet our customers’ expectations and needs – they are the ones who pay the bills – and employees want to make sure that the customers are satisfied. In my experience, demonstrating why a change is important for the customer is a good way of overcoming any resistance to change.
If you do all these things, I’m confident that you’ll enjoy the same kind of employee engagement and operational excellence that we enjoy here at Domino.