Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 41

EDUCATE AND EMPOWER EMPLOYEES
A common issue in specialty fabrics end product manufacturing is the
double-edged sword of high employee turnover and what's sometimes
referred to as " tribal knowledge " -expertise gained from years on the job.
Employees who have it often guard the information, believing it creates job
security and makes them more valuable to the business. However, the practice
can negatively affect productivity and workflow.
" When the staff member is absent for vacation, illness, etc., machine downtime
can increase, quality decreases, and it can be very costly for the organization, " Ben
McGrath says. Kamber has developed video training, Kamber Machine Academy,
on completing basic maintenance and setup of its most popular machines, and
reference materials so that new employees can get up and running quicker. And
while some longtime employees may see this as a threat, most find that better
processes and training make their job less stressful and more satisfying.
REDUCE INTERRUPTIONS
Interruptions disrupt workflow far too often, according to Heinz.
" When people don't have the information they need, they have to stop and
interrupt others to continue with their specific task, " he says.
A good centralized source of information and weekly or daily status meetings
can help ensure everyone is on the same page. Beyond that, people need time
to focus, a few hours each day when no one is allowed to interrupt and they
can " batch " work. This is true for everyone from administration to production.
Heinz recommends shutting a door, using headphones, or, better yet, having the
company get behind the effort with steps such as posting signs that indicate when
an individual or department is in " do not disturb " mode.
" When you're in the zone and get interrupted, it disrupts your concentration and
isn't easy to get back, " he says. " Giving people that time gives them breathing room
that ultimately results in greater productivity. " He also recommends reserving time
at the end of the day to organize the workspace, review what went well and what
presented challenges, and make a list for the next day.
ORGANIZE FACILITIES
A clean, well-organized space is safer and more productive, be it a kitchen,
warehouse or sewing room. It's a concept few would argue with, but many find
difficult to undertake and maintain. According to Ben McGrath, applying a methodology such as the Six Sigma 5S approach can be a relatively easy way to get started:
*	Sort: Get rid of unneeded parts and supplies.
*	Straighten: Organize remaining items for peak efficiency.
*	Shine: Thoroughly clean the space.
*	Standardize: Clearly label/color code everything.
*	Sustain: Train, refine and stick with the system.
PERSIST
Change, big and small, requires persistence and daily work. As Westlund
emphasizes, " Things can be dramatically easier with the right tools and
processes, but you have to be disciplined. "
Laurie F. Junker is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn.

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Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021

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