SPI Industries and the Morning Huddle

Business gurus often talk about the view from 30,000 feet - the big picture that provides a look at overall operations. Perhaps, however, the focus should be on the view from 30 feet - a close-up of specific processes and procedures that make an impact now.

Plastics Business

An ownership transition at SPI Industries triggered a re-evaluation of operational methodologies throughout the plant. With a desire to “turn the culture and turn the ship”, President James Doster implemented a morning meeting to share critical benchmarks and process updates with his staff. In this View from 30 Feet, Doster shares the thought process behind the plant’s morning huddle – and some of the results he’s seen.

When Doster assumed the presidency of the South Bend, IN injection molding business from his father, he saw an opportunity to grow the business. “I didn’t want this business to be ‘okay’ – I wanted SPI to be great,” explained Doster. “Even if we don’t gain any business, I want to see us get better at what we’re already doing, to improve the quality of life for employees and improve output for our existing customers.”

The first step was an operational assessment by Harbour Results in April 2010. “As expected, we scored very poorly on the assessment. I knew there were several areas where we were doing enough to get by, but no more,” Doster said. As a result, SPI engaged Harbour’s services and now Mark Shircliff, senior manager, is on-site several days a month. A morning meeting was implemented to increase operational awareness for everyone in the plant. “We’ve been doing things a certain way for so long that it’s hard to flip a switch,” stated Doster. “The morning meeting forces us to stay on track.”

Previously, the management team would review metrics once a month – quality, scrap, etc. That wasn’t enough. While the employees were doing their jobs, they weren’t working toward the same goal. Now, SPI has isolated nine metrics and those metrics are reviewed in the huddle every morning with a management team. Every morning at 8 a.m., the director of purchasing, customer service manager, director of engineering, director of manufacturing, a representative from shipping, the first shift foreman and three members from the quality team gather for 15 minutes. “The daily huddle helps to align the entire company. We find out what we need to focus on today to get product out the door and which metrics might not be meeting our standards,” said Doster.

Data Tracked in Daily Huddle:

  • Sales Value Produced
  • Labor Hours (Regular and OT)
  • Sales Value Produced per Labor Hour
  • Scrap Percentage and Cost of Scrap
  • Period to Date Sales (Shipped and Invoiced)
  • Safety (Days Without Injuries/Employee Hours Lost/Medical Costs)
  • Secondary Hours (Hours Spent Away from Press)
  • Lost Scheduling Hours (Due to Breakdown, Slow Changeovers, Resource Shortage)
  • Tooling Issues (Repair Needs)

The metrics are posted on a white board, with access for everyone in the facility. The director of manufacturing and the head foreman are responsible for making the heads of other shifts aware of trouble spots and other critical issues. Each month, data from the previous months provide a history that makes the daily number more meaningful. “It started out with just numbers on a board. Now those metrics have a graph that charts the data from the last two or three months. We take those numbers and educate the team about the impact on the bottom line – down to the operator level – and how it influences their bonus,” Doster said.

At SPI, the end goal is to have each employee understand his or her effect on the business. “I want them to ask, ‘How does what I did today drive that number?’,” explained Doster. To that end, Doster holds a full company meeting each quarter with every shift to talk about the numbers on the board and what they mean. “It’s a slow process to educate every person on that line. It will be worth it, though, because when they start looking at the numbers and understanding what they mean, then I don’t have to manage them. They will manage themselves.”