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What Do All Successful Labor Management System Implementations Have in Common?

Mar 4, 2013

Perhaps the hottest application right now in the world of Supply Chain Execution software is Labor Management, aka Workforce Management. When combined with accurate Engineered Labor Standards, these tools can drive strong ROI through significant productivity improvements. The irony is that while demand for LMS is strong, the primary reasons why these projects succeed or fail are commonly overlooked.

Many organizations fall into the trap of thinking that a LMS will provide a significant increase in productivity by simply installing the software and having it manage operator performance. The reality is a labor management system doesn't manage your labor force – you do. In fact, the very name of these solutions is misleading. A more accurate term would be “Management Enablement Solution.”

LMS projects have three main components: Software, Engineered Labor Standards, and Operator/Management Interaction. What do all highly successful LMS implementations have in common? Answer: the operator/management interaction is the foundation of the project.

How do companies create strong operator/management interaction?

  1. Clearly establish the project goals at the beginning of the project, letting the operators know why the project is important and how it will proceed.
  2. Involve operators in defining and documenting the optimal process (“Preferred Method”, “Best Practice”) for each task. The operators have the most experience with the tasks, providing invaluable “real-world” perspective.
  3. Invest in training supervisors in the skill and art of coaching and mentoring operators to use the Best Practices. A Supervisor should be trained to think of himself/herself as the coach of an “industrial athlete”. Supervisors should observe the operator completing a task and then provide constructive and positive feedback on opportunities to improve.
  4. Establish periodic Best Practice observation for every operator and make this session part of each supervisor’s daily/weekly routine. Coaching and mentoring observations should be part of the supervisor’s interaction with all operators, not just with those failing to meet expectations.
  5. Establish an accountability plan that includes the corrective actions required when an operator fails to meet daily or weekly expectations. This plan establishes the requirements for follow-up observations, mandatory re-training and, eventually, disciplinary action.

All successful LMS projects have incorporated the above key elements. Projects that fail either do not clearly define the goals at the onset of the project, do not involve the operators, overestimate the supervisors’ coaching and mentoring skills, or do not provide a consistent positive feedback mechanism for management to use with the operators.

Remember it’s not really a Labor Management System – it’s a Management Enablement System.

In our next blog we’ll take a closer look at the make-up of a successful LMS Coaching and Mentoring Program.