Taylor: Empower your staff with information, goals

Billy Ray Taylor, the Director of Commercial Manufacturing for Goodyear, spoke with CFE Media about his management style and the challenges and opportunities for plant managers.

By Bob Vavra September 1, 2012

Billy Ray Taylor is a visionary leader with more than 20 years of experience in all phases of manufacturing management and leadership. He has been repeatedly called upon to implement improvement strategies in under-performing operations, to improve production efficiency and employee engagement. As plant manager for a Goodyear 2.2 million sq-ft consumer tire manufacturing plant in Fayetteville, N.C., he was instrumental in achieving and sustaining significant productivity increases of over 18% in units in just six months with no additional cost or capital investment.

In June 2012, Taylor was appointed Director, Commercial Manufacturing. He now oversees operations at four commercial tire manufacturing plants in Buffalo, N.Y.; Danville, Va.; Social Circle, Ga.; and Topeka, Kan.

Previously, Billy led numerous manufacturing teams as a plant, production, and business center manager for Goodyear Tire and Rubber, consistently improving performance across all areas of production efficiency, labor costs, quality and safety, resulting in his teams winning numerous internal and external awards and recognition.

Taylor holds a MBA from Baker University and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Prairie View A+M University. Throughout his career, Taylor has attended a range of leadership development and six sigma certification programs and has also been certified in Toyota Lean Manufacturing in Shirakawa, Japan. He spoke with CFE Media about his management style and the challenges and opportunities for plant managers. 

CFE: One of the principles in Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” is to “begin with the end in mind.” When you arrived at the Goodyear plant Fayetteville, N.C., what was the end that you were trying to achieve? 

Taylor: To build a high performance self sustaining culture that would continue to evolve and yield value to the customer even after I exited the organization. The challenge when I first arrived in Fayetteville was that we were not meeting our goals and objectives to create sustainable economic value. People were not visible in the continuous improvement process.

My goal was to foster an environment where everyone is a CEO, an environment where individuals own the team’s results. 

CFE: You have talked about empowering your employees. Talk about the large and small ways that empowerment took place. 

Taylor: Fayetteville has a unionized workforce. We communicated, with facts, our competitive position and where true north was in a market back strategy. We wanted the workforce’s input on the strategy and methods of execution; the “HOW” we get there.

At the onset, I started having two plant manager roundtable meetings five days a week with 25 people at a time, one at 6:15 a.m. and one at 2:15 p.m. to explain the business case for change and the importance of personal ownership. We cycled through the entire workforce. They could ask me anything they wanted to ask me.

We made a list of follow up items and recommendations to address items such as cultural or social issues, equipment problems, system strengths/weaknesses and follow-up information was posted throughout the plant for all to see. Associates were given the opportunity to speak openly about the things that concerned them, and were presented visible evidence that their issues were being addressed, associates started to buy in to the concept that change could be beneficial for all.”

A continuous improvement process was introduced right at the beginning whereby individuals from the shop floor presented their completed projects to senior management in twice-weekly meetings where they were recognized with medals of achievement. “When we first started in 2010, participation was about 38 associates a month. In 2011, we averaged 262 associates participating a month. In 2012, it is currently up to 532 people on average. This year we will complete over 756 different projects. These improvements netted significant quality, efficiency, and financial savings.

One small engagement project was issuing everyone a custom football jersey. The jersey had the productivity goal as the player number, mission and vision as the player name, company and union logo on the sleeve as the player league, and the plant team name on the front. As we issued individuals a jersey, we communicated the significance of the jersey defining true north. With this simple project, we aligned and united everyone behind a common critical goal. 

CFE: You shared statistical goals with all of your employees – both production goals and financial goals. In successful plants we’ve been in, that also takes place. Why is that important to a successful operation? Conversely, why don’t more plant managers do it? 

Taylor: "Knowledge is power" and for people who are motivated by power, that is where the quote stops. However, I believe that knowledge is power and shared knowledge is more powerful.

People want to know the score—what does winning look like? What is the end goal in mind? This affects how people, think, feel and act our mindsets and behaviors. We instituted what is called Red/Green boards on all equipment. This enabled every associate not only to know the score, but keep score of their personal contributions to the enterprise goals and objectives.

Some leaders understand the need for change and empowerment, but fear relinquishing control and specific information to the shop floor due to a perceived loss of power. “Leaders must be willing to build a culture that trusts, encourages and supports their employees to be innovative, to experiment with change, to take risks, and to learn from failures.” In short bosses tell people what to do, leaders empower so people can do. 

CFE: What were the tough choices and challenges in Fayetteville? What was the toughest decision you had to make in your time there? 

Taylor: The choice to trust the organization and recognize that some failures are innovative opportunities. We committed to support, encourage, and embrace the true experts that reside on the shop floor.

Also, we made the decision to get the right people in the right chair. Old paradigms are hard to change, so sometimes you must change those in position to execute new evolutionary paradigms. 

CFE: The statistics you achieved in Fayetteville – an almost 20% improvement in production without an increase in staff – are simply remarkable. To what do you attribute your success, and the success of your team? 

Taylor: The engagement and empowerment of the organization as a whole, from the janitor to senior staff, everyone is a CEO of their specific job function. I attribute the success and sustainment to alignment of the organization; linking tools, systems, and behaviors to drive results through strategic deployment and tactical execution. 

CFE: When you left Fayetteville this year for your promotion to Goodyear’s Akron headquarters, the local press gave you high marks not just for your efforts inside the plant, but for your community involvement. Why is that important for a plant manager? How did it benefit you in your job and in reaching your goals? 

Taylor: The community is the workforce. You don’t hire the associate, you hire the family. By being an organization that is active in the community, you become a fixture that people respect and are proud to be associated with. People make you successful, I believe when you make people visible, they make you valuable. By being visible in the community, they value the organization as a whole. 

Author Bio: Bob is the Content Manager for Plant Engineering.