Coşkunöz, a Turkish automotive supplier specialised in metal forming, has found that a thriving front line leadership is the real essence of its lean journey. Nilay Çetiner, Lean Deployment Leader, talks about the company’s process for developing people.

What is the best adjective to describe Coşkunöz’s front line leadership? I think it should be “living”. Many companies have tried to develop it, but eventually failed to turn their existing organisation into a living entity with engaged and self-reliant front line staff.

I was recently researching information on line management and came across the following definition of a line manager: “A manager who heads a value adding department and is responsible for achieving an organisation’s main objectives by executing functions such as policy making, target setting and decision making.” Judging by this definition, our team leaders are almost like line managers now, as they actually do all of the things that are mentioned above.

In order to successfully implement lean manufacturing principles and make them the permanent way of running a business and encouraging continuous people involvement in driving change, front line managers must be trained and developed. We have to teach them leadership skills and lean manufacturing techniques.

Front line management is the level of management that oversees a company’s primary production activities. It is critical to a company’s success because it is responsible for motivating employees who perform those fundamental production activities that add value to the customers. It must also make production more efficient and keep costs under control.

Coşkunöz started its lean transformation in December 2004 with  nine focus areas. Developing front line leaders was one of the first things we did.

In the way we formerly managed our line, before the lean transformation began, we had one manager who was responsible for approximately 50 employees. We also had a shift leader who was responsible for approximately 70 employees. His only responsibility was the execution of the instructions he received from management.

It was very hard to organise lots of people around daily work, and managers were simply fire fighters who tackled the problems that regularly arose in operations. Sometimes you thought you could hear them cry for help.

We introduced our new front line leadership structure in 2005.

Five to seven teams (each with eight to twelve people) were supervised by a group leader in every shift. Team leaders are not only direct supervisors of team members: they are also their mentors. They must motivate and bolster the morale of people, who are those doing the value-added work. Mentoring and coaching are now incorporated in their job description.

Foremen and individuals in higher levels of management are responsible for resource and development management. Team leaders monitor the group’s performance against SQCDM (Safety- Quality- Cost-Delivery-Morale) and organise daily tasks.

Coşkunöz currently has 118 team leaders, 23 group leaders and five foremen.

Policy deployment is another aspect we focus heavily on, with supervisors acting as a link between the teams of line operators and o management. Each team is provided with a visual management board, which contains the SQCDM performance indicators directly taken from hoshin planning.

What we try to achieve

Some of the teams’ goals are:

  • Completion of three kaizen cycles a year (the duration of our kaizens is two months, from start to finish);
  • 20 suggestions per associate per annum;
  • Specific targets for quality, delivery and cost, reviewed every six months (through individual, face-to-face meetings between team leader and team members).

During the meeting, the team leader analyses a document, agreed on by the team, on the performance of each team member. This evaluation process helps measure performance and competence for every team member.

It also allows us to obtain information on personal and team performance, which we then use to screen and select potential candidates for team leader and group leader positions.

The visual boards are located in each team’s rest area. At the beginning of each shift, team members perform a number of vigorous stretching exercises intended to make them feel more energised during the day and to prevent accidents. This is also a way for team leaders to observe their colleagues and try and figure out whether any of them have any problems in their personal life or a health issue.

A personal problem and the consequent stress may contribute to losing concentration and focus while on the manufacturing floor, which in turn may lead to accidents or quality issues.

HR is also involved in the process of assessing an associate’s performance, as well as in the process of selecting and recruiting and in educating our staff.

Someone who wants to become a team leader works as an actual team leader for six months under close observation. The candidate’s work is assessed daily by another team leader and by the relevant group leader. After six month, the supervisor and the HR department come to a final decision.

In order to become a candidate, one has to join two training groups (one focuses on technical development, the other on personal development). Some of the40 modules we have in place include: team work, lean manufacturing, 5S, kaizen, standard work, build-in quality, visual factory, poka-yoke, lean simulation game for one-piece-flow, safety, conflict management, kanban, SMED.