DEARBORN - Darrell Rowser is a new Team Leader at the Buffalo Stamping Plant. He recently went through eight days of intensive training on the seven operating systems within the Ford Production System (FPS) and the 18 key tasks that he will be responsible for in his new role.
Today, Rowser is leading approximately ten people and six lines in the assembly area at the Buffalo facility.
The placement of team leaders at Ford’s manufacturing facilities throughout the globe is critical to the success of the FPS, according to Adrian Price, director, Global FPS
“Our plant employees are the ones that deal with the issues and the process,” said Price. They’re the ones that can recommend real tangible improvements that are going to impact their safety as well as the quality and flow of our products.”
As a Team Leader, Rowser will take on some of the responsibilities previously handled by his supervisor at the plant. That supervisor is now evolving into a new role as a Process Coach.
“I’m handling day-to-day operations – basically everything from managing the people and assigning jobs to making sure we have the proper inventory lined up and the appropriate skilled trades in line to make sure that everything runs smoothly,” said Rowser.
Rowser says he was eager to apply when the Team Leader positions were posted at the plant.
“I was very excited about it. I really couldn’t wait,” he said. “From a Team Leader standpoint, it’s a title that’s necessary, but I’m part of a team of people who are all shooting for the same goal. The sense of empowerment that we can all achieve is very important.”
Rowser says he learned a lot from the training.
“Through the different modules, we learned exactly what it takes to be a team leader,” he said. “We also went through all the different facets of the FPS – from financial to maintenance to leadership skill – to understand the important role that each department plays.”
Martin Litwin is also a new Team Leader at the Buffalo plant. He is now responsible for approximately ten people on four lines in the Schuler press area.
“I’m a hands-on type of guy. I want to be involved, and I want to have ownership,” he said. “I want to have that opportunity to succeed and I want to have that same success trickle down to the people who I work with.”
Rowser and Litwin were among more than 110 people who applied for 25 Team Leader positions at the Buffalo plant, according to Walt Burton, who leads Training and Development at the facility.
“We were given a set of metrics to use to rank and rate the applicants and then the top candidates were selected based on their scores,” he said.
Burton says the training takes place at the plant. New Team Leaders as well as Process Coaches are removed from their daily positions to attend. Most of the instruction takes place in a classroom but there is also a series of decision-making exercises that take place on the plant floor.
“These people are extremely motivated and ready to go,” said Burton. “I’m working with them to help them define the resources they need and working with the process coaches to help them with the process.”
Process coaches play an integral role in the training process, according to Corinne Flynn, Training and Development Leader, Woodhaven Stamping Plant.
“The Process Coaches provide a wealth of assistance in the training,” she said. “They have management expertise and quite a few years of experience so they’re able to offer a lot of help and suggestions.”
As the Team Leaders settle into their new roles, so will the Process Coaches.
“The Process Coaches will now be able to lead instead of manage,” said Flynn. “They can do more projecting and planning and other things to help improve the business.”
Chris Melody, a Process Coach at the Woodhaven plant, says the implementation of Team Leaders will free him up to focus more on continuous improvement and looking toward the future.
“The additional tasks assigned to the Team Leaders will allow the Process Coaches to spend more time analyzing data and the current state constraints with the ultimate goal to put them in front of us so that we can improve the future state,” he said. “Combined with the time and data management schedule, it will also allow additional time for the Process Coaches to verify that standardized processes are being followed and provide coaching as necessary.”
Burton says he’s a firm advocate of the changes being made within the FPS, especially since they are being supported by both plant management and the UAW.
“Our Union President/Chairman and Plant Manager have both been extremely supportive and are setting the bar as we go along,” he said.
Burton says it’s important for everyone involved in the process to be patient.
“We keep using the word ‘journey,’” he said. “At the end of the day, everyone is going to be more productive and happier because the people at the most basic level at the plant are being engaged and providing valuable input.”
Rowser says he would strongly encourage his colleagues at other plants to embrace the FPS changes being made.
“It is change, and change is difficult for everyone involved. So take your time, and let the process grow,” he said. “It’s the simple fact of owning the process and becoming more efficient in what we do. It’s identifying the issues and the problem-solving involved that can only come from the bottom up – the people on the plant floor.”
“It’s very important to move forward,” he said. “This is a global company. The car market is very competitive now. There are many players, many countries, many different facilities that are already doing this and far beyond. We need to modify our business to better compete with the global economy. We’ve got to change from dinosaurs of the 50s to the modern-day production system.”
According to Liliana Ramirez-Jones, manager, FPS North America, the Team Leader and Process Coach training is an important first step in transforming the business.
“To implement and sustain the FPS we need to focus on both the tactical and the people side of our business,” she said. “The Team Leader and Process Coach training is the beginning of our focused efforts on increasing the knowledge and skills of our people and revolutionizing the way we run our plants.”