Plavecsky's
by Jim Plavecsky
June 26th, 2012

Embrace Change -Be Quick on Your Feet

During my recent travels I was with one of my customers and we were evaluating a new fabrication method. We went through the method in detail and then decided to test it in his actual manufacturing process. As I observed the IG fabrication method, I noticed that the new process was not being followed, and I pointed it out to the manufacturing manager. He said, “I know, I explained it to my people but they still insist that their way is faster so they are doing it that way regardless.” I was shocked! Here we have a situation where the boss explained exactly what needed to be done , and the process was purposely not being followed because the fabricators are so used to doing it a certain way, they just couldn’t bring themselves to change their method.

“At least they are honest,” I said. “What you really have to worry about are those who follow your instructions while you are watching but revert to the old way the minute you walk off the plant floor!”

The lesson observed here is the difficulty of change. The longer the period of time an existing process has been in place and the easier/faster the existing process is to complete, the harder it will be to put into place a new process to replace it and for permanent change to take hold!

Perhaps the best way to overcome this natural resistance to change is through education and training. You would be surprised how many people who build windows who do not fully understand how the various materials and components function in the window. They need to better understand what manufacturing processes, if done incorrectly, can lead to premature window failure and warranty claims? Also, many don’t understand the tests with which the insulating glass and/or windows must be subjected to in order for the window to be effectively marketed.

Taking time out from the manufacturing environment to educate and train the people who actually build the products is crucial. As Stephen Covey would say, “Take time out to sharpen the saw!” The insulating glass unit is a crucial part of the window system. So if the people who build the IG units fully understand what makes an IG unit tick, their natural pride in workmanship should take over. Instead of resisting change, they will now embrace it. Or better yet, they might even be thinking of process improvement changes on their own and submitting these ideas for formal evaluation by management!

An effective approach to training a manufacturing team is to conduct 30 minute learning sessions periodically, perhaps once per week. Shorter sessions seem to work best as they result in a minimal disturbance of the day’s production schedule. Also, people are more likely to retain information if it is given in short bursts as opposed to long sessions, where attention span may suffer and pressures of the day’s manufacturing schedule are looming in the back of their minds.

The door and window industry is a dynamic one and changes in the marketplace are dictating many changes on the plant floor. New materials, components and manufacturing processes must be implemented in order for window fabricators to keep up with the latest Energy Star criteria, which will likely be revamped once again in 2013. For example, in the Northern Zone, the proposed change in U-Value is to go from the current .30 to somewhere between .25-.27. If the new criterion becomes .27, only 41 percent of the windows currently listed in the Certified Products Directory will qualify for Energy Star in the Northern Zone! The other 59 percent will either be looking at changing designs, materials and processes or dropping out.

Another significant market development which will dictate change on the plant floor is the NFRC’s upcoming Independent Verification Program (IVP). Also beginning in 2013, all fenestration products listed in the Certified Products Directory (CDP) will be subject to a marketplace evaluation. The NRFC will go out into the marketplace and purchase samples of fenestration products that are listed in the NFRC’s CDP just as a consumer would do. Testing of these actual products will be conducted to make sure that they are built as specified and that performance values match up against those listed on the NFRC label. This means that Standard Operating Procedures need to be closely monitored on the plant floor to make sure that window products are being built to design specifications. It also means that Quality Assurance must be taken to a higher level. Once again … more change!

Indeed, the dynamic nature of our industry means that window and door fabricators must be quick on our feet. Competition is fierce these days. Competitors are “duking it out” in the ring as they battle for increased market share, which is absolutely necessary to grow one’s business given current market conditions. Those capable of effectively implementing change will be quick on their feet and will survive the bout. Those who cannot embrace change will take too many hits and may be out for the count!

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