The Power of Teamwork in Manufacturing
Hello, reader—Brian Kippen here, owner and founder of KAD, back with another installment of our new series, The Future of Manufacturing. This series spotlights problems we face in the manufacturing industry and what solutions KAD is testing. I hope this will be a collaborative process, and I would love to hear your thoughts on these topics. Drop me a line so we can connect and work to reinvigorate the manufacturing industry together.
At our machine shop in Vermont, KAD employees know we place the utmost importance on working together. My expectation is the same for inexperienced new hires as it is for longstanding employees who have worked for decades in prototype machining and other manufacturing disciplines.
Some workplaces foster a sense of competition, but I know from experience that everyone wins when we come together as a team—and I’m working hard to impart this wisdom to up-and-coming manufacturing workers.
The Next Generation Must Prioritize Collaboration and Communication
Building a successful career in manufacturing isn’t a zero-sum game. As I teach the next generation of manufacturers at the Randolph Technical Career Center (RTCC), I make it a point to drive home the importance of teamwork. Because without an all-in team effort, a manufacturing project can quickly go off the rails.
Moving Past Institutional Knowledge Hoarding
When a student or employee learns a new skill, their first instinct is often to keep their newly acquired knowledge close to their chest. They may think, “If I am the only one with this information, then I’m the one who holds the cards.”
Back in the day, many folks in manufacturing bought into the idea that increasing their knowledge—and keeping it to themselves—was the best way to ensure job security. However, in modern precision machine shops, this archaic way of thinking only leads to more stress—for the employee and the entire team.
Want an example?
Imagine a scenario where an employee who hoards knowledge has to call in sick. They possess the information the rest of the team needs to progress with a project. The team is stuck, so they have two choices. They either put production on pause while the employee is out of the shop or they start calling the employee at home during their time off to ask questions. Neither scenario is ideal, and in both cases, everyone loses.
Work could have easily continued in the employee’s absence had they shared the relevant project information with the team or—better yet—documented their process.
When employees work as team players, life is less stressful when one wants or needs to take time away from work. That’s just one of many benefits that comes from prioritizing teamwork over individual gain.
Progress Requires the Open Transfer of Knowledge
Prototype machining is complex work that requires excellent interpersonal communication and effective collaboration. While bringing another team member up to speed on a process can initially take time, it most certainly pays off down the road.
When an employee with years of specialized expertise slows down to elaborate on a solution or discuss a problem that a less experienced employee is struggling with, the whole team has an opportunity for growth. What initially presents as a “time suck” leads to a teachable moment that benefits everyone:
- The novice employee gets a confidence boost and builds their skills
- The senior employee can now rely on the novice employee to take over a specific process, freeing them up to focus on more complex work
- The company becomes more efficient and profitable
Teamwork Is a Top Expectation at KAD
My employees know teamwork is an expectation because it is crucial for the sustainable success of KAD. We are a tight-knit group with a shared goal of growth through collaboration.
As a shop owner, I take great pride in watching my employees come together to innovate and grow. By shifting the emphasis from individual gains to teamwork, our whole company thrives!
What are you doing to foster an environment of collaboration and communication at your precision machine shop? Drop me a line and let me know!