How to Build a Strong Manufacturing Team ? Signage Can Help


How to Build a Strong Manufacturing Team?


I recently took a tour of an industrial plant with a Chamber of Commerce group. It’s always interesting to see how other manufacturers conduct business and see the unique products they manufacture.

After a short roundtable discussion about current challenges at this particular plant, we split up into groups and toured the facility, much of which has undergone upgrades that doubled production capacity over the years. Being able to constantly change and adapt to new demands and technology to meet those demands is paramount in today’s manufacturing landscape. To keep up with these challenges, this global company recently made a huge investment in capital equipment for their Virginia site. Huge changes were also made in the plant’s management staff, and many of the issues causing the most frustration revolved around the struggles of a new management team attempting to bring new vision to an existing team of employees stuck in their ways.

During the discussion, several CEO’s representing other industries in the community reflected various success stories of overcoming similar challenges, explaining how new management won the trust of existing workers. The consensus of the group thought best results happened when change was gradual and not jammed down people’s throats. But how can you adapt quickly to mandatory change yet not seem overbearing? One young, new VP who recently moved to the area from the Northeast commented that plant employees in Virginia are definitely a different breed. He noted the Virginians have a high level of self-pride in their work, but managers can lose their loyalty quickly if employees feel they have been mistreated in some way.

The company’s safety policy is simple: 100% participation in the plan. But how do you get total organizational commitment? In the past, safety was sometimes placed second to output and corner cutting practices were occasionally winked at to get the job done and out the door. Retraining employees to be 100% accountable in safety was certainly an ongoing challenge of all the companies at the discussion. During our tour I noticed many hand made safety message signs out in the plant, and several large safety charts on the wall. Perhaps upgrading to a digital safety messaging system would be one compelling way to push the safety focus to a higher level throughout all shifts. Safety data could be instantly communicated through centrally controlled RSS feeds and plant communications could be integrated into bright, easy to read, and noticeable electronic message signs (EMC’s) spread throughout the plant’s hazard areas.

Finally, as I left the meeting, I noticed the huge 300,000 square foot industrial building was “naked” from the main highway where more than 50,000 cars pass each day. There was no visible branding on a huge expanse of steel shell building… totally blank and cold. One simple way for the new management team to warm things up and build employee pride and confidence would be to label it as a positive icon in the employees’ local community.  That way when employee families pass the building on their way for groceries each week, they can tell their kids proudly every time they see the big corporate logo on the wall, “That’s where Daddy (or Mommy) works!”

How to build a strong manufacturing team ?  Signage helps.


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VA Manufacturers Association

VA Chamber of Commerce