The U.S. has lost six million million manufacturing jobs since 1998. Manufacturing is in a crisis. The Mexican or Chinese option is increasingly part of the calculations of not only big multinationals, but also small and medium-sized companies. We need to develop company- or plant-level strategies to keep work in the United States.
IUE-CWA sees Lean / High Performance as a strategic approach to job security. The union can go on the offensive to improve plant operations and win long-term job security for members before we receive WARN notices and are left with simply negotiating plant closing benefits.
Lean Manufacturing is a way of organizing production to lower costs, eliminate waste, and improve quality. It is not new: it was developed by Toyota from the 1950s to the 1980s and imported to the U.S. in the late 1980s. It has been present in the automobile sector since the early 1990s and at GE in a limited form since the mid-1990s. Lean is increasingly being adopted in small companies and in smaller units represented by IUE-CWA. Typically, companies contemplating lean do so because specific problems have been identified.
In the last decade it has become clear that Lean Manufacturing is not just another management participation scheme but rather a critical tool for companies to stay competitive in a global economy. It is widely perceived to be the only way – with no guarantees of success – to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.
We support the version of Lean Manufacturing in which the union has a role, in which the employer listens to employees and in which we can increase skill to maintain decent jobs with decent wages. We want the union to become a resource, not only for workers via training and certification, but also for employers who want to stay in the United States. Through this process we increase job security and keep jobs in the U.S. We have saved jobs that otherwise would have been lost, and added new jobs after “leaning down” a facility.
We understand that members are fearful of change and some perceive Lean as a threat to their jobs. Employers also can be fearful of an increased union role. Our program seeks to change awareness about Lean, to train local unions on Lean Manufacturing, and to reach out aggressively to educate employers on the benefits of Lean/High Performance.
How the Program Works
The first part of the Lean High Performance Program consists of a class which can be broken down into two parts, a cultural piece and the actual Lean simulation. Many companies implement LEAN without preparing or educating our members or their managers on the process and expect them to be ready to accept change immediately. Our cultural presentation introduces the workforce to the realm of change and covers the benefits of those changes. This class explores employees’ fears, their reluctances to get involved with the process, and the need for change. We believe this is a critical component to the success of our Lean High Performance program because our members, as well as the managers, need to understand why the company is interested in implementing a Lean program. In the second part of our workshop, the principles of the Lean process are introduced and discussed. The participants are engaged in an actual Lean simulation using the principles that they have learned. Additionally, we have the ability to modify this presentation based on our assessment and your needs.
The second part of our program offers workshops out on the shop floor, further teaching and reinforcing the principals of Lean. These workshops are based on a need assessment that we develop from the information gathered during the Lean High Performance classes and information received from management and local Union leadership. The workshops can include set up reduction, uptime, material flow, and 6S (5S with Safety) to name a few. These workshops performed on the shop floor involve both the operators and managers from that area. Building on the Lean principals taught in class, participants are encouraged to work as a team to improve their areas.
Bringing LEAN into Your Facility
Once an IUE-CWA Local has determined there is an interest in pursuing the LEAN High Performance Workplace process they should fill out and submit the Initial Contact Form. Once the Initial Contact Form is received, we will contact the Local to discuss the possibility of scheduling an initial visit to the location. During the initial one or two day visit, we will need to tour the facility, and meet with the Local Executive Board and the Plant Management Team. The meetings with the Executive Board and the Management Team may be combined or held individually. During these discussions, we will thoroughly explain our program, the required commitments, costs and anticipated results, and we will respond to any questions or concerns.
If you have any questions concerning the LEAN High Performance Workplace process please contact your Staff Representative who can provide you some information about the process.
After the initial meeting has taken place, if both parties are in agreement on moving forward, we will contact you to discuss your both your schedule and any need to customize our plan for your facility.