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Training, Learning and Competitive Advantage | Are you a “Fit” for the Job? | Venchurs Recognized for “Best Practices”

Training, Learning and Competitive Advantage

By Venchurs President and Chair Jeff Wyatt
South Central Michigan Works BizCentral Spring 2010

In a recent “Best Practices” program that Venchurs hosted on our application of Hoshin Kanri (strategy development, deployment and continuous improvement) I made a few remarks up front, but the program was led by our Senior Managers and those who actually made the improvements right down to the people on the shop floor.  I was asked two questions that stuck with me after everyone left.  The first was, “Why have you made such a substantial commitment to training?”  The second was, “I’m amazed at how everyone in the organization is able to articulate what they are trying to accomplish and why.  How did you do that?”  The two questions are linked.  The fact is that I couldn’t have given their presentations.  The people on the floor did the work of continuous improvement in their areas.  They know our quality, service, delivery and cost improvement goals and assisted in developing methods and practices to make processes more efficient and effective.

Venchurs training is in place for a specific purpose, that is, continuous improvement of the organization to hit our goals and create enterprise value which benefits all stakeholders.  The knowledge and skills that are necessary to achieve improvement are a part of a system of improvement.  There are three components to this system:

  • Methodology: the space to work on team projects, knowledge, tools or skills (including the scientific method and appropriate knowledge base) and measures to determine our progress.
  • Context: commitment to a “truth driven” organization to examine the brutal facts about our performance and goals to improve that performance.
  • Vision: the ability to hold the reality of our current performance, the aspiration of where we want to be and the determination to narrow the gap between the two.

Frankly, my experience is that most “continuous improvement” efforts are ineffective because there is no system of improvement.  As Dr. Edwards Deming pointed out many years ago, this is a result of ineffective leadership.  Most improvement efforts seem to be no more than cheerleading: “everyone needs to better” or “everyone needs to be working on something to make the organization better every day!”  In reality, these may make the managers who repeat them feel better, but actually create cynicism and resentment.  Why, because there is no real way to accomplish these exhortations.  The team member could correctly ask, “What precisely needs to be worked on and how should we do it?”  Without the knowledge base and skills to improve the organization effectively, efforts will likely be little more than “tampering”, that is, making things worse.  With the proper direction on where improvement efforts can make a difference, knowledge, skills training and valid measures to identify progress, the results can be astounding!


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Are you a “Fit” for the Job?

By Venchurs Human Resources Director Leann D. Wilt
South Central Michigan Works BizCentral Spring 2010

What helps an employer determine if the person in the position is in the right position?  We know we have good people who truly care about their job and their co-workers, but are they in the right job?

We needed to find a way to identify what skills were critical to be successful in the job, assess the competency level of each team member within those skill sets and then find a way to improve their skills while keeping them motivated to learn.

Organizationally we utilize assessments and gap analysis to further our understanding of where we can make improvements.  We decided to start with our Maintenance team to find out how they would benefit most from classes we wanted to incorporate into our training program.  Using our assessment and gap analysis methodology, we turned to Jack Townsley from South Central Michigan Works and Annette Norris from the Academy for Manufacturing Careers to develop a process using Tooling U and JobFit.  After selecting a group of high performers to base our Maintenance JobFit profile on, we administered the assessment and reviewed the profile comparison of each person.  The results assisted in identifying and designing the best training methods based on their learning styles and behavioral traits.  

Although met with some initial resistance from the participants, we developed a Maintenance Training Program to fit the needs of our organization in cooperation with the Academy for Manufacturing Careers.  After all, who could blame someone for being apprehensive about going back to school much less trying college level courses?  After a few classes with instructors who were able to relate to them, work with their learning styles and build on their strengths, we had buy-in from the team.  The pride and satisfaction of a good grade or the confidence that they helped to train one of their fellow team members was a very rewarding and unexpected benefit.

Little did we know that this pilot group and the JobFit methodology would provide us with a strategic direction for selection and hiring, promotional fit, coaching and mentoring employees.  The JobFit profile gives an employee the ability to see an assessment of themselves based on answers they provided.  It is a very eye opening revelation for virtually everyone who has taken the assessment.  We have used the profile for meaningful coaching sessions with employees who are eager to learn and be better for the organization and in their personal lives.  Many have taken their assessment report home to their family and asked, “Is this really me?”

The growth and the direct conversations that can follow this type of assessment have been an invaluable tool for our organization as a whole.  We now have a method to expand our business and know that we are hiring or promoting people who measure up to the high performers we have identified in our seven key job families.  The personal growth I have witnessed in employees who have taken the coaching and have applied it to their work and management style is very rewarding.

We are on our way to having the “right” people in the “right” job using the JobFit profile.


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Venchurs Recognized for “Best Practices”

Daily Telegram: November 7, 2009

Venchurs Inc. was the site of a corporate presentation Friday to demonstrate the facility’s progress over the past year in reducing costs and preserving jobs. 

Venchurs was recognized by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) for “best practices” in policy deployment.  The meeting and facilities tour was used as a way for those in attendance to observe the MMTC’s business improvement program’s practices in action.

More than 100 representatives from 35 southern Michigan companies gathered at the Adrian automotive parts manufacturing and packaging facility to learn how Venchurs put a “Lean Strategy” to use through the MMTC.

The Lean Strategy is used by the MMTC to help corporations, such as Venchurs reduce business errors, eliminate waste and streamline activities in transactions.

The MMTC works with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth to guide businesses through the program.

Since adopting MMTC’s Lean program earlier this year, Venchurs reported it has saved 250 hours of data key entry work, reduced its backlogged inventory by $2 million and increased its on-time delivery goals from 22 to 84.6 percent, among other time and cost savings.

The program also helped reinforce Venchurs’ policy of no layoffs in 2010 despite the economic times.

Employees, plant managers and administrators all looked for ways to decrease downtime and expenses, said Chad Henline, continuous improvement manager at Venchurs, during the presentation Friday.

“We had to build goals to meet strategic initiatives to make sure we all worked together under the same goal,” Henline said.

Venchurs Inc. was established by John Wyatt Sr. in 1973.  The plant, which assembles and packages engine assembly and parts for the auto industry and other manufacturers, employs more than 100 full-time employees and up to another 100 part-time employees and temporary workers on an as-needed basis.

Jeff Wyatt, chief executive officer at Venchurs, said he is pleased with everyone’s efforts in helping the corporation lower its break-even margin, improve efficiency and maintain jobs.  “They’ve all worked hard and it’s paid off, thanks to their dedication,” Wyatt said.  “When you have to remain competitive in the market, you cannot raise prices.  You have to reduce costs.”

Bringing other Michigan corporations to Venchurs was a way to show the strategy plan in action, according to Roger Tomlinson, Lean program manager for the MMTC.

“We wanted to help others and talk about ways to improve performance to help preserve jobs in Michigan.” Tomlinson said. “We’re anxious to show them how to use Lean and Hoshin Kanri deployment strategies.”

Hoshin Kanri, derived from the Japanese word “compass”, is part of MMTC’s strategy to provide businesses such as Venchurs a “True North” goal and align each department with a goal to improve operations.

Mike Steiner, vice president of marketing for Ann Arbor-based NuStep Inc., attended the meeting Friday and said he felt a situational synergy between Venchurs and his own facility, which manufacturers exercise equipment for health care rehabilitation facilities.  “We are where Venchurs was a few years ago,” Steiner said. “With this program, we come away with tools we can use to re-energize the company.”


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