Business, by nature, is competitive. Often we are so competitive we won’t take the opportunity to learn from each other. Regardless of your business, but particularly in manufacturing, most of the tools used to get the job done are the same from company to company. It’s not what gets the job done that matters, it’s who gets the job done, so why not invite other businesses over; why not learn from someone who has had the same problems. Fortunately, Intertech was able to overcome that stigma. Last week we had the great fortune of hosting 30 members of the Manufacturing Association of Plastics Processors (MAPP) for a tour. This was not just any tour but rather a two-way learning experience. Plastics processors from across the country came to Intertech Plastics to learn about how we align strategic planning from the top down, use visual management tools to understand and improve our Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), and work with our community, not just to do good, but to build our talent pipeline.
Admittedly, we were a bit nervous and intimidated by some of the larger manufacturers in the East so we spent a good week scrubbing the plant clean before their arrival. The reality is, we really didn’t need to clean more than we do already. We worried about cleaning the carpets in the office, washing the windows outside, repainting the lines on the floor, and other light cosmetic improvements. What we found out during our tour was that our cleanliness was at the bottom of the list of things that were impressive. Instead, our strategic management, our lean efforts (and successes), our workforce development, and most importantly our corporate culture and leadership are what impressed our guests.
This is not to say we were perfect. The purpose of the tour is not just to show off, but rather to teach and learn. Visitors were broken off into 5 groups and then given a red card and a green card. On the green card they wrote about all the great things mentioned previously and on the red card they wrote suggestions of what we can do better. That second part was especially helpful, and is why it’s so important to get past the competitiveness and learn from each other. Continuous improvement is one of the core values at Intertech and this was an excellent exercise to support our efforts. It’s hard to see where we can improve without some external input, which is why are a part of such a great organization like MAPP who facilitated the experience. We have already started to implement some of their suggestions and know we will be an even better manufacturer because of their outside perspective. Despite all of the helpful suggestions, perhaps the most valuable benefit to come out of the tour was the self-realization that we have a great team and are a great manufacturer. I heard one co-worker say, “You know what? I’m proud of us.” That pride in what we do is what makes us stand out, and I’m sure our customers agree.