It’s important for all those working in Ford manufacturing plants throughout the globe to recognize that there is a standardized Issues Escalation process in place to ensure that their voices are heard when they have an issue related to safety, quality or flow that needs to be resolved.
“If a line is down and there is an equipment issue, we react to it immediately because it stops the line, but there are many other issues that affect the plant floor and it’s important that we take care of them – not only because they affect safety, quality and flow of production but because they affect the morale of our people,” said Adrian Price, director, Ford Production System (FPS).
Price says teams should try and resolve as many issues as they can on their own, but it’s important for them to ask for help when faced with issues that are beyond their control.
“It’s the responsibility of the team to make sure they’re working safely and building to quality with zero downtime or 100 percent flow,” said Price. “Anything that affects that in a significant way is something that should be raised as an issue by a Team Member to his or her Team Leader during the start-up of their shift.”
Brett Fox, coordinator, Total Cost and Continuous Improvement, National Ford Department, says that the most important aspect of Issues Escalation from the UAW perspective is that it provides a consistent, structured forum for plant employees to communicate issues they are having on the job.
“We can put the best processes in place. We have the best stops in place. But when it comes to taking us to the next level, we have to listen to the hourly people,” he said. “The people have the ideas. They work with the stuff every day and these are their concerns.”
According to Everett Samuels, Lean Strategist, FPS, there is a standard Issues Escalation process built into every plant’s daily Time and Data Management (TDM) cadence.
“At the start-up of every shift the Team Members and Team Leaders make sure that everything is ready for the operation to start up,” he explained. “If anyone on the team has an issue, this is the time that they communicate their concern to the Team Leader. From that point on, the Team Leader determines if they can fix it or if the issue needs to be escalated to the next level.”
If the issue is still not resolved, it continues to escalate.
“If the Team Leader cannot resolve the issue, it escalates to the Process Coach. If the Process Coach cannot resolve the issue, it escalates to the Team Manager,” said Samuels. “This is all done through a series of short meetings built into TDM, so it is imperative that there is no interruption to the flow of those discussions because then there is the potential for an issue to get lost.”
If the issue cannot be resolved by the Team Manager then a red or yellow card is written and it is sent to the Continuous Improvement Board for review.
Issues that require departmental support, that impede end-of-line performance, require extraordinary resources, have ineffective containment or recurring issues that impact performance are issued a card.
“The Team Manager is responsible to see that the card gets written and that the people who are responsible for it take ownership of it and put timing on it so that they get real-time feedback to the operator who raised the issue,” said Samuels. “The only way a card can be closed is if the person responsible for fixing the issue goes back to the operator and confirms that it has been resolved. The important point is that the person who actually raised the issue has to be satisfied that it has been taken care of.”
Getting back to the person who identified the issue in the first place brings the process full circle, says Fox.
“You may be willing to give all sorts of ideas but if somebody doesn’t get back to you to tell you what’s going on or what happened that’s where you shut down,” he said. “We want plant employees to realize that we did listen.”
Adds Samuels, “It is important for employees to know that resolving their issues and hearing their ideas is important for Ford manufacturing to continuously improve and deliver our business objectives.”