Creating strong ties between production personnel and managers is an ongoing challenge for most manufacturers. Traditionally, these two areas of responsibility attract two entirely different personalities, backgrounds, and skill sets – yet they are expected to work in harmony for the overall good of the company. Bridging the gap between the two requires a deliberate, methodical strategy based on open lines of communication and understanding.

This is the first of a two-part human resources article that broaches a topic many manufacturers choose to avoid: establishing clear lines between the production floor and the management staff. In this segment, we’ll look at how to build strong, lasting bonds between management and production. In the next issue, we’ll show you how to successfully transition production workers into management positions. The goal is to help you establish strong principles around these two important human resources issues and ultimately create a stronger, more cohesive company.

The ties that bind

Armen Alajian understands the value of developing strong ties between his firm’s production and management personnel. As owner of ARTO Brick in Gardena, Calif., he also knows achieving that goal isn’t always easy. “It’s vital to have good relationships between the production laborers and the management teams,” Alajian says. “Without it, the company doesn’t run properly. That’s because people are assets – not tools.”

With 56 employees and a strong family-owned work ethic, he says the company’s leaders and managers “overtly engage those staff members who show up every day, ready to work.” Communication is important, Alajian adds, as is giving praise where due and keeping employees apprised of the company’s accomplishments, progress, and challenges.

“We want our plant floor employees to know that we are all working hard,” Alajian says, “and that we’re showing it by giving out the highest level of respect possible combined with monetary rewards – both of which are very important to all employees.” He sees the fact that all of ARTO Brick’s managers worked on the production floor before moving up the ranks as a positive for the manufacturer and its employees.

“Just the fact that they are all trained on production mechanics and processes, and that they have performed and moved up the ranks,” Alajian says, “makes the communication lines that much easier to establish between management and production.”

The building blocks

In many cases, a lack of communication prevents strong ties from forming between production and management personnel, and ultimately leads to decreased respect and trust levels between the two groups. In most cases, that lack of trust germinates on the plant floor, where production personnel are left out of the loop on major decisions that could impact them. Such sentiments can quickly lead to gridlock in the production cycle.

Greg Chase, president of Chase Consulting in West Harwich, Mass., says having good lines of communication between workers and their supervisors and/or managers can assuage the situation and keep the production needle closer to, if not right on, the 100% level.

Chase, who teaches a class that covers communication during The Precast Show, says asking questions – and listening to the answers – are the first steps to achieving that 100% productivity level and the associated benefits that come with a solid production-management connection. Don’t expect that exercise to be easy, particularly for the managers. “The process takes time and patience,” says Chase, who points to the typical manager’s Type A personality (defined as: headstrong, assertive, and in charge) as a stumbling block for precasters looking to create more harmony between departments.

“Managers have to be proactive and assertive as a part of their jobs, but in this scenario they have to take the time to develop their listening skills instead of telling others what to do,” Chase says. Next, encourage managers to “walk the four corners” of the company on a daily basis, along the way interacting with employees in all departments, asking questions and listening to concerns. “The key is to make yourself visible,” Chase says. “That’s really important to employees, and it goes a long way in creating bonds and relationships that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Plus, you learn more about people, which in turn supplies you with better input regarding their management potential.”