Since joining GaMEP’s Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, Freudenberg-NOK has:
- Developed a Lean Production Management System that was applied to 500 employees in Cleveland and has now been rolled out to 15,000 staff, division wide.
- Within two hours, daily, key information from the plant and office floor is conveyed to the top level of the company, through four tiers of 20-minute meetings.
- Improved their culture by increasing communication, trust, and transparency, thus breaking down their multiple siloes.
- Uncovered trends and common problems across business units, allowing the company to be more responsive to the needs of their employees.
In 1989, two well-known companies, one from Germany, Freudenberg, and one from Japan, NOK Corporation, came together to form Freudenberg-NOK, a sealing technology manufacturer serving such industries as automotive, aerospace, medical devices, bottling equipment, and more. The company, with multiple locations across the globe, opened a facility in Cleveland, a small town in Northeast Georgia, thirty years ago. Today the location employs more than 500 people from the community and surrounding towns.
A couple of years ago, Bill Nusbaum, Northeast region manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech, reached out to Wyman Hare, production partner manager of Freudenberg-NOK. Nusbaum said, “I was looking to set-up benchmarking tours for our Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, which allows manufacturers to learn best practices in lean tools. I knew Freudenberg-NOK was advanced in their lean thinking and that my member companies could learn from them.”
Hare agreed to invite the consortium members into their plant, but also requested to join the group. Hare said, “We may have won the Shingo Prize* in 2001, but we, as a team, feel like we can always continue to learn from other companies in how to improve our operations.”
During the initial plant tour Hare made a connection to the local hospital who was also far along in their lean journey. Hare arranged for twenty of his team members from the Cleveland facility and three other Freudenberg plants, to tour the hospital, where they witnessed a communication method that made them rethink the way they were sharing information within their own plant.
Hare said, “the moment we saw the hospital’s Lean Production Management System in place, we knew the changes we needed to make in our facility to have our information flow faster from the bottom to the top of the organization, so that we, as a management team, could be more responsive and communicative with our direct reports and then downward from there.”
*Shingo Prize was founded by Dr. Shigeo Shingo and is the top prize for lean manufacturing excellence. For more information on the Shingo Prize, visit https://shingo.org/.
Each morning, every department within Freudenberg-NOK, from the plant floor to HR and all departments in between, gather for 20 minutes within their respective teams. From there, three more tiers of meetings occur, each layer pulling up information from the prior meeting, until a final meeting takes place amongst Hare and his direct reports, informing them of the activities within their production floor and non-production areas of the company. Within two hours, the entire organization understands what the priorities are for the day and helps the teams resolve any issues that have come up, solving them in a more timely and organized manner. Over time, this method proved to be influential in breaking down siloes, earning trust, and increasing plant-wide transparency.
Since the success at the Cleveland plant, Hare and Jennifer Watson, GROWTTH manager, have implemented this system division wide, getting all 15,000 employees on the same communication flow.
Hare said, “this has been instrumental, especially right now, as the world is facing Coronavirus. During this global pandemic, many of us across all of our plants have moved from face-to-face check-ins to Microsoft Teams, but because we’ve already had this system in place, our day-to-day communication hasn’t changed in what we are communicating, just in the format in which we are meeting, allowing us to keep the trains moving.”
Next up, Hare and his team are looking forward to getting outside of Northeast Georgia and connecting with the nine other GaMEP consortium groups, so they can learn from companies statewide.