Jeffrey Kendall grows Liberty Tire Recycling through best practices

Involve employees

The crucial element that must be part of lean manufacturing and best practice exercises is the employees. Rather than dictate changes you would like to see made, you need to approach the process by asking those who do the job day in and day out for their ideas.

“Folks who participate in it and see how the operations run better, they’re coming up with the ideas,” Kendall says. “We’re not handing them a list and telling them to go do it this way. People want to improve. People want to do better. When they haven’t been called upon in the past, they really enjoy participating. We’re getting tremendous excitement and participation from everyone involved in the organization. Just that alone is almost a good reason to do it.”

The company has taken on projects from how to better operate machinery to the process of how to grade tires not ready to be thrown away. Once a project is identified by looking through the plant’s data, everything is connected to cost, time and effort to produce a product, and employees involved in that line of work are called in to brainstorm ways to find efficiency.

“Typically, you’re trying to understand why it’s done a certain way. What’s the reason?” Kendall says.

But Liberty Tire Recycling took the discussion one step further when it came to involving employees.

“When we conduct these exercises, we’re bringing in a lot of folks from different plants, so that they participate in providing ideas for the plant in which the event is occurring, as well as taking ideas back to their own plants,” Kendall says. “We expect at the end of the year a lot of the best ideas will be absorbed by osmosis, to a certain extent, based on people’s real-life experience at these different facilities.”

To get the best participation, you need to set the tone from the top as to why it’s important that the organization engages in these activities and that it will only be successful with the employee’s participation and offering of ideas. Also, employees need to know they won’t be criticized for speaking up.

“We wanted their ideas, and they weren’t going to be criticized for coming forward with ideas,” he says. “You have to stick by that though. It doesn’t mean you’re going to take all of the ideas. But you want to hear them. It’s like a typical brainstorming session where you’re going to reject certain things.”