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EMC BC: Virtual Networking Event Summary – Sustaining Improvement

February 4, 2021 Bren de LeeuwBC Lower Mainland 95 Views

The first BC SIG Virtual Networking Event of 2021 kicked off with thoughts and experiences from The Factors Group regarding “Sustaining Improvement” of both Continuous Improvement and Health and Safety perspectives.  After months of change and turmoil, the timing of this session was perfect – a new year, with new opportunities, goals and targets and sustaining improvement of course is an essential component of what is to come as we “grow forward” in our businesses!

The Factors Group of Nutritional Companies Inc. is a leading manufacturer of nutritional supplements and other health-building products.  This is a  privately owned company with a culture and overarching mindset of delivering quality products and nutrition to enhance everyday lives.  For more information on this fabulous company, please check out their website at:  www.factorsgroup.com

For this special session on “Sustaining Improvement”, EMC Members and Guests were very pleased to welcome Factors Group representatives:

  • Jason Leithead, Sr. Director of Operations
  • Jeremy Sim, Continuous Improvement Manager
  • Frank Elsner, Chief of Security

Working in tandem, Jason, Jeremy and Frank outlined their improvement journey first by providing a brief overview of the Company.  We then reviewed their Factors Lean Progress (FOS) program before and during COVID, and preparations post-COVID from a continuous improvement standpoint.  Following this, demonstrating the interconnectedness of initiatives and key function areas, we heard about the importance of being proactive, lessons learned from the pandemic and what the future holds in terms of goals and objectives from a Health & Safety aspect.

Continuous Improvement Endeavours:

Factors Lean(FOS) Progress before COVID

  • General progress of programs, tools and implementation timelines

As mentioned above, Jason and Jeremy began with an excellent overview of the organization and outlined the foundation and framework for the Factors Operating System (FOS).

The FOS embraces concepts promoting the building of knowledge and enhanced training, with an end goal of attaining and maintaining customer satisfaction.  Through such programming, they believe a systematic approach would continue to help nurture and build a culture of continuous improvement.

In 2013, their Continuous Improvement plans took shape and they continued to evolve in tandem with ongoing systems and processes.  They began with 5S and worked their way methodically through to Belt status - beginning in one department and expanding from there.  Recognizing that this was not just a “manufacturing” activity and that the same concepts and tools could be applied in Human Resources, Health and Safety, Operation Data, Quality and so forth - the doors for a host of CI opportunities were suddenly open!

With the development of supporting programs and workshops, they recognized the importance of tracking training so that they could plan accordingly.  One of their programs “I See I Do” – engaged team members on idea management and quick improvement and has rendered considerable uptake.  The Factors Group also explored other means in which to generate ideas including A3 Thinker which is now providing more tangible projects.

Factors Lean(FOS) Progress during COVID

  • What’s being hit when things are not normal.
  • How did we react to keep the fire going?
  • How are we doing now?

A key challenge that remains, is keeping the engagement level up.  This has led to review and learning from best practices in other organizations around the concept of reward and recognition and CI incentive programs.

Like many other companies, the pandemic led to a hard stop on training.  In person work is certainly very different than textbooks and online sessions and they have adapted accordingly through smaller groups and workable settings.

The Factors Group credits their organizational and CI culture for helping them navigate through the pandemic without plant stoppages.

They also came to appreciate that Measuring is critical in monitoring engagement.

Preparing Post COVID

  • What have we learned? How can we keep supporting our customer and business?
  • What’s our plan to sustaining CI culture & programs moving forward through 2021 and beyond?

As 2021 unfolds, The Factors Group Team are looking for quality/robust problems to solve that will have a direct impact on bottom line results and in turn bolster engagement.  They are currently finding a training balance and ensuring the resources needed are available for identified projects.  In addition, complimenting this aspect, they are also exploring means in which they can give back to the shop level when a savings opportunity is discovered.

Health and Safety Initiatives:

Frank then provided us with an informative overview of Sustaining Improvement from a Health and Safety perspective. 

  • The Importance of Being Proactive
  • Maintaining Safety During the Pandemic and Lessons Learned
  • Post COVID:  What are our future Health and Safety Goals and Objectives

Frank started by stating that “hope” is not a plan and that without a playbook, it is very difficult to find a credible resource when needed.  Being prepared certainly enabled The Factors Group to react proactively, efficiently and effectively.  To stay abreast of relevant information, Frank regularly listens to the CDC Webinars to assist in making fact-based decisions and to keep their Business Continuity Plan updated.

When COVID first began they quickly implemented a variety of communication protocols (emails, texts, portal), in an all-out effort to protect the company and its’ personnel and simply answering “negative” to the mandatory health questions became much more powerful than a temperature gun.  As an organization they elected to err on the side of caution and as such began a culture changing process where masks and PPE became the accepted standard.

Like many companies, COVID fatigue does exist and ensuring ongoing engagement and buy-in is imperative to keeping everyone safe. 

Tying it all Together at the Factors Group – Sustaining Improvement:

COVID preparedness led to early adoption practices of social distancing, plexiglass barriers and appropriate systems implementation, which in turn thankfully prevented transmission at the site.  They adhered to a very conservative approach.  They pushed through these changes and part of the success of being able to do this is the genuine caring messaging that came directly from the ownership along with a no-layoff policy.

With achievements in sustaining improvement through CI and Health and Safety initiatives during the past tumultuous year behind us, Jason summarized by sharing their primary focus when it came to improvement initiatives has always been in the area of manufacturing and operations but now, they realize there are so many other opportunities and are excited about what they might find as they explore documentation control and so forth!  Needless to say, having such thorough CI and Health and Safety Plans in process, they have tons of ideas for future initiatives!

This was an excellent best practice presentation and on behalf of our EMC Members and Guests, very special thanks to Jeremy, Frank and Jason of The Factors Group for sharing their experiences on Sustaining Improvement!

All the best as always!

Stay safe and stay well!

Bren de Leeuw

Western Canada Operations and
Vice President – Community Partnerships & Stakeholder Relations
Excellence In Manufacturing Consortium - bdeleeuw@emccanada.org - 519-372-6009