The shift-based model called for building the maintenance capability into each operator’s responsibilities, which created some anxiety. “There was a lot of concern from the maintenance organization about that,” admitted field service manager Wendell Tilley. “They had lots of questions. If I teach operators how to do my work, then what am I going to do? Are you going to get rid of me? What’s the real plan?”
In fact, the next step in the plan involved encouraging each maintenance specialist to help create a precision shop devoted to more valuable work. “It was a very positive approach across all the teams,” Tilley said. “It helped show that not only did we want to train operators and raise their capability, we also wanted to train the day organization — a group that was very focused on mechanical work — to be more focused on precision and reliability rather than just task-oriented.”
While it took time for some to embrace this new model, the effect on performance has been remarkable. Employees are empowered to make decisions at appropriate levels of the organization. Operators troubleshoot routine maintenance issues such as minor leaks, freeing up the precision maintenance team to do larger on-site equipment overhauls that used to be sent to off-site specialists.
Aligning with virtue and talent
Just as the process of self-improvement sometimes requires tough judgment and introspection, the Orange transformation required some difficult decisions regarding personnel.
When human resources manager Maggie Zens transferred to Orange from a neighboring INVISTA facility in 2015, her first responsibility, after assessing the facility, was to improve the dismal culture. Zens found that anxiety about the future of the site was pervasive. So was the lack of trust. “After hearing those survey results, it felt like we got punched in the gut,” Zens said.
“It wasn’t fun, but there were things we needed to hear, things that needed to be said,” admitted Brittain. “We had to hold ourselves accountable. We were the ones leading the organization, and we were the ones who had settled for the culture that we had.” Consequently, a far greater percentage of leaders than hourly employees was eventually let go.
“Right after the adipic unit shut down, there was pretty big turnover in management, especially upper management,” said Damon Bishop, who started as an operator on the adipic unit in 2010 and is now a production team leader. “But honestly, that’s when things really started to change.”
Kristen Westbrooks, who started at Orange as a co-op in 2008, noticed a gradual but unmistakable improvement in the facility’s culture within a year of the leadership changes and “the shift runs the shift” implementation. “That’s when things really started to change,” Westbrooks said. “Getting all our folks in the same room and saying, ‘These are our goals. This is what we’re striving for. How do we get there?’ and then working as a team was pretty cool.”