Phoenix Contact: Building teamwork is building success
Cheryl Boyd is the manager of production and manufacturing engineering for Phoenix Contact at a time of great expansion in the company. The headquarters outside Harrisburg, Pa., is doubling in size to accommodate growth across its product line. She discussed the challenges of maintaining quality in her operation with Plant Engineering.
Plant Engineering: Now that the recession is behind us, what are the lessons you learned about your operations, your workers, and manufacturing?
Cheryl Boyd: By far, I’ve learned people are our greatest resource. On a daily basis, we strive to find ways to improve our processes without sacrificing product quality or compromising our vision. When given the opportunity, people are willing to pull together to achieve what needs to be done. You just need to provide them the support and the chance to achieve those targets. We, like many other manufacturing facilities, are under great pressure to reduce our operating costs, especially when the economy is unstable. With the efforts of our production team, we were able to exceed our performance targets while meeting customer requirements, and implement cost reduction initiatives, without negatively impacting staff levels. This success could only have been achieved by all levels of our staff working together.
PE: Why are you optimistic about your own manufacturing operation?
Boyd: When the economy is in decline, many companies reduce or eliminate R&D, along with training, but Phoenix Contact’s approach is different. We believe R&D, along with employee development, is the cornerstone of our future. Our structure is flexible enough to meet the market’s short-term needs, while we continue to invest in long-term strategies 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years out. We take the opportunity to continuously invest in process improvements and technical training, so when the market returns, we are able to meet our customer requirements, faster than our competitors.
We invest in our employees and encourage continuous education. We have team building events for the entire production staff, along with focused training courses geared toward new and existing technologies. Our human resource department has also partnered with local colleges to help us create an apprentice program within strategic areas of our production. When you have employees with practical experience who embrace the company culture and have the desire to develop their career, why not partner with them to create a winning situation for both the company and the employee?
PE: Are you as optimistic about American manufacturing as a whole? Why or why not?
Boyd: I believe Americans have a renewed sense of pride and emphasis on products manufactured in the United States. American companies are focusing on deploying new technologies and process techniques locally. They are integrating Lean practices from development to production, which enables companies to reap the benefits of quick turns and reduced inventories, while being cost competitive in the market.
PE: What is the best thing you do in your plant today? What area of your operation are you most proud of?
Boyd: Team building; I can’t stress this enough. When people learn to work together—regardless of their differences, background, training—amazing things happen. We start to listen, respect others’ opinions, try new approaches, and learn where our successes come from and who our real change agents are. We have a great team, and it’s taken everyone’s efforts to achieve our success.
PE: On the other hand, where do you have the most room for improvement? What’s the plan for improvement?
Boyd: We have the most room for improvement in sharing experiences and Best Demonstrated Practices among different manufacturing disciplines. As an organization, we exercise both positive and negative “lessons learned” on large projects, but we need to institute this practice on small projects too.
We’ve initiated steering committees among the different disciplines to exchange information and determine if past Best Demonstrated Practices can be applied to existing processes. This is a good start, but we’ll need time and feedback to determine if other communication avenues should be explored.
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