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Articles from 1997 In August


Motivating a skilled workforce

Managers are taught rather than born. In the case of Chain Sandhu, CEO of NYX Inc. (Plymouth, MI), lessons derived from former boss Phil Ziglar during the formative years at GM were the start of his training. Today, Sandhu builds on this foundation to manage a culturally diverse group of molding technicians, assembly personnel, engineers, and management employees. The way this growing Tier One supplier succeeds in keeping skilled employees motivated could apply to many molding operations.

What separates NYX from other Tier One suppliers? Putting a lot of investment into technical resources has elevated Sandhu's enterprise. But just as important as investing in highly skilled engineers and technicians is the effort NYX makes to nurture these workers.

"All of our customers have switched from 'just in case' to 'just in time,'" Sandhu says. "We knew that to accommodate the transition we had to change our organization accordingly." One of those changes means a bigger team makes decisions at NYX so that the process moves more swiftly. Sandhu calls it creating more missionaries to spread the management load. Directors in the areas of quality, purchasing, and manufacturing participate in making decisions on a day-to-day basis, eliminating management layers to save time.

Another key to the NYX system is that territorial rights are eliminated. "Cliques, pecking orders, and physical walls are gone," says Sandhu. Everyone in the management team can open the CEO's door to talk.

Directors attend a meeting every other week to examine such customer-driven measurables as delivery and quality ratings. The group also focuses on QS 9000 initiatives and the company's progress. Each of the 21 QS teams has a board in the war room, and when documents are created, they're filed in folders hanging on the wall.

On the manufacturing floor, molding technicians are taking on more responsibility and adding skills through company-sponsored training. Inspection is now done at the press by the operator, eliminating the need for a secondary inspection.

Additionally, Sandhu releases financial figures to each plant for greater employee involvement in the bottom line. "We are moving toward profit sharing," he adds, "and hope to implement a program soon."

A stepped-up training program on the shop floor, along with promotion from within as much as possible, helps skilled workers grow at NYX. Also, a move toward standardized systems so that everyone can operate all the equipment and make repairs is in the works. "If we standardize, so many jobs become more efficient," Sandhu notes.

NYX is moving from its earlier entrepreneurial phase to a system phase, and as such, is bringing new employees to the mix. "Adding new members to the management and manufacturing teams has also brought new breadth and depth to our organization," Sandhu acknowledges. He focuses on helping these newcomers feel a part of the team, and on creating an atmosphere where they feel comfortable sharing their ideas. "We eliminate demarcations, and attempt to let employees implement the changes they suggest," he says. As an example, Sandhu points to a poke-yoke system for assembling step pads that was designed, built, and implemented by molding operators familiar with the requirements. "This kind of empowerment is a win-win situation for all involved. The product gains better quality, the workers gain satisfaction, and the company gains productivity."