Continuous improvement is nothing new for KMF (Precision Sheet Metal), the UK's leading supplier of sheet metal components and assemblies.
The Newcastle-under-Lyme-based business has for many years developed and refined its process-based approach to improving how the overall business functions.
At the core of this strategy sits the personal development of its Team Leaders, who in turn are empowered to continually motivate and engage with the 300 plus team members across all of the business units with the ultimate aim of driving performance and productivity levels to new highs.
A core function of this development process is to conduct an open an honest review of what is actually being achieved by improvement activities to date and critically to assess the impact on the business.
"This review stage can be, and is often overlooked in many process improvement strategies, but it is an area that we at KMF highly value as it can identify significant benefits that may be ignored in the general day-to-day operation of the business," explained Keith Nicholl, KMF's Business Improvement Manager.
Typical of this review process at KMF was the group decision to investigate individual past objectives and temporarily divert resources away from the pursuit and elimination of waste and focus more on the fundamentals that underpin any successful business, namely people, business culture and the approach taken to address these elements.
"This company-wide Back2Basics policy targeted areas such as personal conduct and adherence to safety systems, even going as far as the use of cups and mugs on the shop floor," added Keith.
"The process involved bringing groups of employees together for open discussions on how to improve company culture and how it was functioning on a day-to-day basis."
"The one thing that we worked hard to avoid was the do as I say, not as I do attitude as we already benefit from the understanding that to get the most out of modern manufacturing environment, you need to have good, fair and consistent leadership."
"This leadership needs to be based on clear expectation of standards and those in a position of leading need to be seen to be working to the same expectations."
As a result of this review and implementation of the Back2Basics policy KMF has seen a positive change in how staff and team members conduct themselves. What used to be unwritten rules on basic standards are now clearly understood and acted upon by everyone in the business, irrespective of position or responsibility.
A key benefit is the sustainability of the policy, as it is built on ownership and expectation. Such is the power that this devolved responsibility brings that it is now a rare exception for someone to not follow the rules adhered to by the majority. There is also a perceivable feeling that nobody wants to be the 'one' that breaches the rules.
"This change of focus was embraced fully by the Team Leaders who took charge of the direction, deployment and control of the changes that took place."
"This reinforces the knowledge that people are enthused greatly by being given full responsibility to make a great job of their own ideas, rather than simply following instructions set by others."
"Back2Basics will continue to be a major part of KMF's sustained continuous improvement programme," concluded Keith Nicholl.