Interior Insights: How to Manage Employees During Times of Transition

Apr 17, 2012

We recently sold our massive 73,000-square-foot facility and now occupy a new 6,000-square-foot building. The physical transition itself carried tremendous stress. The footprint of the area we used specifically for upholstery and our main line of business was right at 13,000 square feet, so just moving equipment and stock was a monumental task.

Through this process, I’ve tried hard to focus on employee relations. Guys who work for me, who I trust and who are dedicated to our success, often have very valuable insight on improving day-to-day functions. They’re also the backbone of our productivity.

Throughout the careers of our guys, I’ve received unbelievable loyalty and friendships. I value their opinions and want to listen to them and address any concerns that get voiced.

I own and operate my company 100 percent. These guys see me in the trenches working and sweating right alongside of them. They also see the countless hours I spend pushing our company from behind the desk, on the phone and by traveling the country to ensure everyone here has job security.

My guys would follow me wherever I lead without hesitation. This type of employee relationship doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve invested in my core guys over several years and that investment is now paying off. Involving the guys in our decision-making gives them true roots in the direction and success of the company.

I involved every guy in here in trying to determine how, where and what to set up in the new shop. Each responsibility was addressed one at a time as we started cranking the interiors out again. I rely on these guys to tell me what they need to be efficient because efficiency is a primary key to overall profitability. Tool placement, actual physical space and location of the responsibility all play a major role in that task being efficient.

We’ve designated clean assembly areas that are separate and sealed from any fabrication or dirty areas. We’ve placed specific tools and materials in arm’s reach from the task they’re used to accomplish. We’ve settled on a bay that houses three cars that’s designated as clean and final assembly. This area has a low ceiling and is completely lined with bright white steel and more light than anyone could possibly ever need.

Being that we’re a detail-oriented business, there’s absolutely no excuse for not seeing a small defect with our new lighting. No shadows translated to no hiding places inside the car.

Designated repair areas, as well as retail and showroom areas, are also being implemented. The separation of specific tasks has affected our overall efficiency in positive ways. We’re now rolling a car out on average every week-and-a-half as opposed to every two weeks like we were doing in the larger facility.

Taking cars from reception to delivery is ranging from three weeks to eight weeks, depending on the level of fabrication they’re receiving. Running tasks concurrently on multiple cars is also a way we’re contributing to our efficiency.

In the past we’ve looked at every car as an individual job and been blinded to other tasks while it was being run through. Listening to the employees has made me aware of some of their concerns involving the build and their specific responsibilities around them.

Instead of looking at the entire job, each of my guys has specific tasks or parts they’re responsible for. Dividing areas and tasks has made my guys more confident and secure in exactly what’s expected from them. By delegating each task to one specific guy, I’m also watching their speed and competency rise just a little with every one they do.

For example, one man is responsible for stripping the car, labeling the parts and fasteners, and storing them in a designated area. This ensures the pieces are always treated the same way and stored the same for anyone who has to perform a task on this vehicle. One guy shoulders the responsibility of organizing each of the pieces. This takes the time wasted looking and searching out of the equation. The next separate responsibility that occurs is the sound-deadening, insulating and rough pattern -making. One guy handles all these at the same time starting while the disassembly guy is still stripping the car.

Designating specific responsibilities is contributing to our shaved times and this was all due to employee suggestions.