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FLEXO Magazine : October 2013
instituted and can see the bigger picture, they 're more likely to understand and support change. Previously, we didn't have open communication. Now, in- stead of annual meetings, there are regular gatherings. Scott Hillstead, the new vice president of operations, says, "We now have continual communication with our employee base. We went from communicating with our employee base on an annual basis to a semi-weekly basis and we'll probably be increasing that trajectory going forward." Part of the new approach is letting employees drive decisions---a team working on a project now is expected to choose the best method itself, rather than being told by management what to do. So far, employee feedback has sup- ported this change. "We're not telling them what needs to change and how to change it," Hillstead says. "Instead, we're asking: 'Tell us because you guys know better than anyone else.'" Imel agrees. "One of the most significant parts of the town hall-style communication we've adopted is when we have those events, it's not upper management talking down to ev- eryone. It's meant to be: We're all in the same boat together. How do we succeed and thrive moving forward? They 're the experts on this, not us." CUSTOMER FOCUS The company also made a renewed commitment to get to know its customers intimately. A three-day strategic planning event and in-depth Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis held just over a month after realignment revealed a weakness and actionable item: It's impossible to delight customers without first knowing them, and that means talking to customers---leaving the sales men- tality behind. The biggest business development commitment is investing the time and effort to talk to customers regularly to make sure that we are always up-to-date with where they 're going, why, and what, if anything, is impeding their growth. "We've done a much deeper dive in understanding what the customer is saying to us and getting down to the roots of customers' expectations and needs," says Hillstead. "That's been critical in helping shape our internal communication and vision with our employees. How will they know what to do or how to do it if we don't share those critical insights? He continued, "We're also looking at data from our custom- ers and employing Lean Manufacturing methods. The con- cepts of world-class manufacturing are very common sense and systematic because it's very data driven and you have to look at data differently than you've looked at it in the past." PATH TO SUCCESS One of the first things Imel did during her first month on the job was to hold a Kaizen event, a full day of Lean Manufactur- ing training, based on the Toyota methods of production and philosophy of continuous improvement. We learned to recognize ways to do a complete behavioral 180-degree change for our entire team. We went through the history of Toyota production systems, and how to recognize and eliminate the eight forms of waste. We spent another couple of days mapping our current processes and removing whatever waste we could. That helped my team look forward and more closely at everything they do every day." The initial reception was a little subdued, but within two days, employees were on board and excited with these changes once they realized they were being handed the reigns of their future, prompting discussions and plans to continue with Kaizen training. Dixie Graphics is now on a path to becoming a complete, full-service solution for clients, anchored by the skill sets and expertise it's known for, along with new attention to providing value services to companies in their branding and packaging supply chain. "We're still working on our transformation program, but the foundation is in place and we're already seeing results," says Hillstead. "It's really about setting the vision for the overall organization. World-class manufacturing basically asks: 'What do you need to do to delight the customer? How do you differentiate yourself in that process?'" About the Author: Matt Williams is executive vice president of Dixie Graphics. Williams joined the company in 2004 in a sales role with the com- pany 's architectural division. In 2009 he became manager of that division and in 2012, VP Business Development. Johnna Imel, Account Services Director Matt Williams, Executive Vice President Pat Meadows, President Scott Hillstead, Vice President Operations 86 FLEXO OCTOBER 2013 www.flexography.org