Changing Culture and Behaviors to Improve Training Effectiveness Lunch & Learn Recap

The Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing held a Lunch & Learn, hosted by General Dynamics Mission Systems in Marion, Virginia, entitled, “Changing Culture and Behaviors to Improve Training Effectiveness”. The training was led by Mike Leigh, President of OpX Solutions, a performance improvement company in Roanoke. Mr. Leigh used to work for GE and before that was a Navy Officer. He has a Computer Engineering degree and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. Here is what we learned:

When budgets are tight training tends to get cut because the return on investment isn’t always immediate. However, training is important and necessary. The primary reason for training is to improve performance of an organization through safety, customer service, or profit. Training might also be offered as regulatory, a reward, or as on-boarding/employee orientation. Discretionary training dollars are cut when training effectiveness cannot be demonstrated. Training budgets are an investment, not an expense, and must be thought of in that way.

Mr. Leigh offered two case studies to support training:

  • Company A was a profitable, growing company and felt they benefited greatly from the training, however they did not continue with it.
  • Company B was a stagnant company, but had measurable results and invested more in training.


Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick developed a model in the 1950’s for training effectiveness and it became popular after his book was published in 1994. Dr. Kirkpatrick discussed 4 Levels of Training Education:

Level 1 – Reaction

Measures how your trainees reacted to the training.

  • Did participants like it?
  • Did participants consider it relevant?

Methods of evaluation:

  • Feedback forms/surveys
  • Verbal reaction
  • Easy to obtain

Level 2 – Learning. Most trainings stop at this level, but it is hard to show value.

Measures increase in knowledge

  • Did participants learn what was intended?
  • Did participants experience what was intended?

Methods of evaluation:

  • Before and after assessments and tests
  • Relatively simple, but more investment needed

Level 3 – Behavioral Application

Extent to which trainees applied the learning and changed their behavior

  • Did employees put learning into effect on the job?
  • Was behavior change sustained?

Methods of evaluation:

  • Observations over time
  • Some assessments
  • Important, but harder to do

Level 4 – Impact/Results/ROI

  • Effect on the organization from the improved performance of trainees
  • Typically business metrics/KPIs

Methods of evaluation:

  • Often many of these are already in place
  • Challenge is to link to training input
  • Hard to link changes to training and not to other metrics
  • Try to accurately measure other factors and variables

ROI is the next level and questions if the training was worth the investment. Most training is done in the first two levels. The challenge is: it is hard to show value at these levels.

There are criteria to evaluate training at higher levels:

  • Life cycle of training
  • When training is linked to strategic goals
  • If there is executive interest
  • High cost programs
  • High visibility through organization
  • Sizeable target audience

In order to have a behavior change, two things are required: 1. Trainee must be willing to change behavior. 2. Organizational culture must support the change. Organizational culture is the behavior of humans within an organization. It matters because the assumptions and beliefs of employees drive behavior. The collective behavior of employees determines results.

The Success Formula explains

  • Results come from
  • Behavior which comes from
  • Attitudes or habits of thought that comes from
  • Conditioning that comes from
  • Spaced Repetition which is the more we are exposed to something over time or the more we practice something.

Spaced repetition leads to conditioning which leads to attitude. For an organization this occurs through repetitive communications and actions by leaders. Then behaviors change and that equals results.


To create effective training:

  • Start with goals and objectives
    • Reality based training solutions
    • SMART
  • Get buy-in from leadership
    • Does the organizational culture support it?
    • Observations from supervisors & leaders
  • Create a plan to evaluate the training
    • Level 3 and 4 where possible
    • Considerations: program cost, visibility, life cycle, target size
  • Incorporate attitude change into methods



Important Notes:

The information above serves as a recap of the presentation provided by Mike Leigh with OpX Solutions, but was not written by Mike Leigh. All information and quotes were sourced from the presentation provided.

Skeletons in the Closet: When Old Conduct is the Basis for New Claims

Matthew Davison with Baker Donelson recently led a Lunch & Learn about challenges companies are facing since the beginning of the #MeToo movement in October 2017. Companies are facing issues not just of sexual harassment, but also harassment based on race, age, gender, and religion. The reality is concepts of harassment continue to develop as the result of cultural change.

One of the first big cases involving sexual harassment was when Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas, her boss at the EEOC, of sexual harassment. During the trial her complaints were played off, insensitive questions were asked, and it perpetuated the idea that harassment isn’t harassment unless it is overt. A series of Title VII cases have changed outlooks since then. These cases made hostile work environment, sex stereotyping,  and same-sex harassment actionable. Since 2018, two cases are deciding whether sexual orientation and gender identity harassment fall under Title VII.

Since October 2017, 201 powerful men lost jobs or major roles because of sexual harassment accusations. This is due partly to the huge impact of the #MeToo movement. For the first time this decade, the EEOC had an increase in sexual harassment complaints. There was a 12 percent increase in sexual harassment charges from 2017-2018.

eeocIn June 2016, the EEOC released a 130-page report on harassment in the workplace. The report identified “live, interactive training” as the preferred method of anti-harassment training. Some key takeaways from that report are:

  • No one-size-fits-all training
  • Training in multiple languages, or one that provides for different learning styles and levels of education
  • Training that clarifies what conduct is not harassment and is acceptable in the workplace, reflecting the reality of human interaction and common courtesy
  • Training that educates employees about their rights and responsibilities if they experience or witness harassment and the “(hopefully) multiple avenues offered by the employer to report unwelcome conduct”
  • Training that describes, in simple terms, how the formal complaint process will proceed

What do jurors think of #MeToo?

  • Do you think the #MeToo movement has exaggerated how big a problem sexual harassment remains in the workplace?


  • Employees often do not report sexual harassment by a supervisor for fear of retaliation



  • The #MeToo movement has put companies on notice that they have much more of a sexual harassment problem than they may have thought

more probelm


With the power of social media, the flow of information is at lightning speed. Nothing is secret with social media. The #MeToo movement has presented an interesting question: how do we deal with accusation of old, historical conduct? NBC’s response to the accusations against Matt Lauer can be used as an example.

  • Investigation… then termination
  • Mandatory anti-harassment training
  • “Cultural assessment”
  • New harassment policy
    • zero tolerance for workplace romances
    • hugging rule (quick and immediate release)
    • strict rules about socializing (no sharing taxis home)
    • terminations for not reporting

The primary focus of the #MeToo movement has been on high-profile celebrities, multi-millionaires, or politicians accused of abusing their tremendous power over  others. The threat of negative publicity is massive and millions of advertising dollars are often at stake. These factors explain much of the publicity, as well as the resignations, quick terminations, and massive settlements. At present, it’s unclear how much the #MeToo movement will impact regular employers. What is clear is that public perceptions are changing and employees are a part of that public. As a result, employers must carefully consider how to adapt in sensible ways.

Step 1: Review Your Policy

  • Take a close look at your anti-harassment policy.
  • When is the last time it was updated?
  • Is it effectively communicated or buried in a book no one reads?
  • Consider ways to make it a “live” policy, one that is integrated into your company culture.
  • Consider regularly assessing the policy’s effectiveness via anonymous surveys or
    outside assessments.

Step 2: Training

  • Let’s face it, we all know we should spend more time and money on harassment training.
  • Is there a better time than now to convince executive management of the need for this training?
  • EEOC guidelines strongly suggest: “live, interactive training” presented by trainers “who are dynamic, engaging, and have full command of the subject matter.”
  • Consider small groups instead of full classrooms.
  • Does a 15-minute video still cut it in the #MeToo era?
  • It’s time to get serious about training and education.

Step 3: Complaints and Investigations

  • It’s also time to reevaluate how we investigate harassment complaints.
  • Like it or not, the public (your employees) expect lightning-quick investigations.
  • Perhaps the most dangerous result of the #MeToo movement is the perception that an employer’s only real option when faced with sexual harassment allegations is to fire the accused.
  • This is not the law and it has never been the law.

Step 4: Keep up with Developments

  • Several states are in the process of passing laws that would impact sexual harassment claims:
    • New Jersey: Confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements N/A to discrimination and harassment claims
    • New York: Same as New Jersey, plus mandatory arbitration agreements cannot apply to such claims
    • Pennsylvania: Agreements that bar victims from reporting or naming harassers are unenforceable
    • South Carolina: Mandatory arbitration agreements N/A to sexual harassment claims
    • Washington: Confidentiality agreements
      N/A to sexual harassment claims
    • More to come…………


There is a statute of limitations to take into consideration. Under Title VII, the suit must be filed within 90-days of receipt of a right to sue letter. To obtain a right to sue, the individual must file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of relevant events. Under Virginia Human Rights Act, a person must file with Virginia DHR within 180 days. However, there is no statute of limitations on the right to free speech.

Something else to consider is whether or not the accused is still employed. If not, consider limited investigation and making any policy/training changes needed. If so, it is likely wise to investigate as fully as possible. Discipline still may be appropriate, as well as additional actions. Investigations are often difficult as memories fade with time, witness may not be available, and changes in structure, policies, and processes.

Investigations also have publicity/culture implications. Consider:

  • Will not investigating send a bad message?
  • What is the likelihood of publicity?
  • What is the “right thing to do?”
  • Risk of overreaction/under reaction



Important Notes:

The information above serves as a recap of the presentation provided by Matthew Davison with Baker Donelson, but was not written by Matthew Davison. All information and quotes were sourced from the presentation provided.

SVAM Members can view the full video presentation here.


Assessing and Addressing Workplace Violence Lunch & Learn Recap

SVAM recently hosted a Lunch & Learn titled, “Assessing and Addressing Workplace Violence”, led by Rex Carter, retired Virginia State Police trooper. Carter has 23 years combined Law Enforcement experience. He has specialized training in self-defense/martial arts/advanced tactics as well as trauma counseling/crisis management. He is also a UFI Security Operations Specialist and has 20 years service in Pastoral Ministry.

Mr. Carter started the training by defining workplace violence. According to workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. also states that nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported. Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain worksites. Such factors include exchanging money with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. Working alone or in isolated areas may also contribute to the potential for violence.

A case study from Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois was used as an example of workplace violence. According to authorities Gary Martin brought his firearm to a meeting where he expected to be fired. Five people were killed and six officers were injured in the subsequent shooting. It took about ninety minutes to find the suspect.

It is important to remember that it can be very difficult to know when a person is going to be violent. While not all people will show the following signs, these types of behaviors and physical signs can serve as warning signs that a situation could turn violent. Also, watch for escalating behaviors and examine behavior within context. Take note if:

  • There is a change in their behavior patterns.
  • The frequency and intensity of the behaviors are disruptive to the work environment.
  • The person is exhibiting many of these behaviors, rather than just a few.
  • Crying, sulking or temper tantrums.
  • Excessive absenteeism or lateness.
  • Pushing the limits of acceptable conduct or disregarding the health and safety of others.
  • Disrespect for authority.
  • Increased mistakes or errors, or unsatisfactory work quality.
  • Refusal to acknowledge job performance problems.
  • Faulty decision making.
  • Testing the limits to see what they can get away with.
  • Swearing or emotional language.
  • Handles criticism poorly.
  • Making inappropriate statements.
  • Forgetfulness, confusion and/or distraction.
  • Inability to focus.
  • Blaming others for mistakes.
  • Complaints of unfair personal treatment.
  • Talking about the same problems repeatedly without resolving them.
  • Insistence that he or she is always right.
  • Misinterpretation of communications from supervisors or co-workers.
  • Social isolation.
  • Personal hygiene is poor or ignored.
  • Sudden and/or unpredictable change in energy level.
  • Complaints of unusual and/or non-specific illnesses.
  • Holds grudges, especially against his or her supervisor. Verbalizes hope that something negative will happen to the person against whom he or she has the grudge.

Sometimes it is not what a person says, but what their body is “doing”. Use caution if you see someone who shows one or more of the following “non-verbal” signs or body language:

  • Flushed or pale face.
  • Pacing, restless, or repetitive movements.
  • Signs of extreme fatigue (e.g., dark circles under the eyes).
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Clenched jaws or fists.
  • Change in voice.
  • Loud talking or chanting.
  • Shallow, rapid breathing.
  • Scowling, sneering or use of abusive language.
  • Glaring or avoiding eye contact.
  • Violating your personal space (they get too close).

Also watch for a history of violence:

  • Fascinated with incidents of workplace violence.
  • Shows an extreme interest in, or obsession with, weapons.
  • Demonstrated violence towards inanimate objects.
  • Evidence of earlier violent behavior.

Threatening behavior:

  • States intention to hurt someone (can be verbal or written).
  • Holds grudges.
  • Excessive behavior (e.g. phone calls, gift giving).
  • Escalating threats that appears well-planned.
  • Preoccupation with violence.

Intimidating behavior:

  • Argumentative or uncooperative.
  • Displays unwarranted anger.
  • Impulsive or easily frustrated.
  • Challenges peers and authority figures.

Increase in personal stress:

  • An unreciprocated romantic obsession.
  • Serious family or financial problems.
  • Recent job loss or personal loss.

Negative personality characteristics:

  • Suspicious of others.
  • Believes he or she is entitled to something.
  • Cannot take criticism.
  • Feels victimized.
  • Shows a lack of concern for the safety or well-being of others.
  • Blames others for his problems or mistakes.
  • Low self-esteem.

Marked changes in mood or behavior:

  • Extreme or bizarre behavior.
  • Irrational beliefs and ideas.
  • Appears depressed or expresses hopelessness or heightened anxiety.
  • Marked decline in work performance.
  • Demonstrates a drastic change in belief systems.

Socially isolated:

  • History of negative interpersonal relationships.
  • Few family or friends.
  • Sees the company as a “family”.
  • Has an obsessive involvement with his or her job.


It is a good idea to prepare a comprehensive crisis management plan, which includes a workplace prevention program, for each facility. In developing the plan, consider:

  • Preparing and distributing a contact list of all local emergency agencies
  • Performing a hazard assessment
  • Identifying evacuation routes
  • Placing crisis kits
  • Crisis management action procedure with an incident command system at corporate and local levels
  • Regulatory response procedure
  • Media coordination procedure
  • Incident recovery plan
  • Select and train management officials in conflict resolution and nonviolent techniques for handling hostage, hijacking, crisis incidents and counseling situations. Train employees for active shooter situations.
  • As part of the company’s overall management safety and health training, instruct all managers and supervisors in how to identify and deal with early warning signs and potential safety problems associated with workplace violence. Develop systems for reporting signs of potential violent behavior.
  • Identify and publicize Employee Assistance Programs, employee support services, and healthcare resources available to employees and their families.

Physical dynamics such as:

  • Security Guard Service (armed or unarmed)
  • Camera Video Systems
  • Access Control Points – Point of Entry (Lobby areas)
  • Identification Card Usage
  • Vehicle Parking Permit
  • Office Layout (Door/Desk Ratio)
  • Specific location for terminations / interviews
  • Number of Persons available for terminations / interviews / inquiry
  • Lockdown Capability for doors / gates
  • Perimeter Access Points – Parking Lot; Vendor & Delivery
  • Determine Ingress and Egress within the facility (Are there fatal funnels?)



Important Notes:

The information above serves as a recap of the presentation provided by Rex Carter, but was not written by Rex Carter. All information and quotes were sourced from the presentation provided.

SVAM Members can view the full video presentation here.


Excellence in Safety: Tempur Sealy

In October, SVAM honored six Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for their outstanding companies. Through this blog series, we would like to highlight the achievements of these manufacturers.


Charles Johnson, EHS Manager

Tempur Sealy in Duffield, VA was awarded our Excellence in Safety award. To learn more about the company and the impact of the award, we interviewed Charles Johnson, EHS Manager at Tempur Sealy.


Tell us about your company.

Tempur was originally based on NASA’s research to develop a material that would cushion aircraft seats and improve survivability in the event of an accident.
The first Tempur-Pedic mattress was introduced by DanFoam, a Swedish technical foam firm. The brand was brought to the United States in 1992 and the company Tempur-Pedic, Inc. was founded. The plant in Duffield started manufacturing in 2001.

Tell us about the program(s) you have implemented that led you to win this award.

We do industrial hygiene monitoring annually in areas where Isocyanates (a family of highly reactive, low molecular weight chemicals) are present. We have updated our Slabstock line and pillow mold carousels to more of an enclosure to increase the ventilation flow. Safe chemical handling has been improved by adding safety interlocks to all delivery systems including pumps & valves. All control systems are now hooked into a safety PLC & safety relays if needed. Other improvements include closing in slab molding tunnel with metal & sheetrock to contain off gases. Carbon filtration system speed has been increased to extract more off gases. Also filtration system was interlocked to machine so it cannot be ran while the system is off.
A complete Hybrid assembly line was engineered to handle mattress tubes, coil springs & stacking of complete mattress. This includes unrolling of springs in a safe enclosed machine. Also machinery was put in place to deliver springs to the tub without operators having to handle the weight of springs. All spray equip are hanging from a tool balance device to reduce handling of heavy hoses & spray equipment.

We also put systems in place for safe removal of scrap trimming from the saws at the laminators. The systems include multiple conveyors to let the scrap fall then be transferred to the overhead conveyors that will auto feed the foam baler. These conveyors have eliminated need for operators to handle scrap foam trimmings.

img_0503We have a very solid forklift program from training down to engineer controls we have put into place. When training a new forklift operator we go by the OSHA standard that includes class room training with a written test. The most important part of the training is the on hands or the driving part. We require the employee to operate the forklift 4 hours a day for 30 days with an experience driver nearby training them. This is completed prior to when their performance is evaluated. We have put in engineering controls in place or on our Powered Industrial Equipment; we installed a shock watch/total trax system on our forklifts. This system allows us to control who can or cannot operate our forklifts. This system also monitors the driver’s performance and if he or she comes into contact with anything and generates a Gforce higher than the set amount the shock watch system will shut down the forklift operations, and this will require the supervisor to reset the forklift and complete an investigation on the incident.

In January 2012, we added certification to the OHSAS 18001 Health & Safety standard. The Health & Safety standard requirements have been incorporated into our existing Quality and Environmental Management Systems. By using this successful foundation of management system control, we now have a true Quality, Environmental, Health, and Safety (QEHS) Management System that will benefit our customers, neighbors, and employees. The commitment and effort to maintain the health and safety at our facility is evident from the 3rd party audit results of “zero” audit findings for the past two years for our OHSAS 18001:2007. Certification to the new ISO 45001:2018 standard is planned for March 2019. We also have enhanced our near miss/safety suggestion program to get the employees more involved in reporting and as well as help come up with the corrective action. We continue to have monthly all hands meetings to communicate any near misses or incidents that are reported during the month

img_2264We have implemented a strong wellness program which includes a stretching program along with having a physical therapist onsite to help with work related and non-work related strains and pains. The MedFit Early Intervention Program (EIP) is designed to recognize and start early treatment prior to an injury occurrence. Employees with aches, pains and concerns come to our specialist and are assessed according to their complaints. The specialist will then determine a Medical Exercise Training program to start with the employee if an outside referral is not needed. The employee will come for 30-minute sessions one to two times per week determined by the specialist. We will then look at the type of complaint and perform an ergonomic assessment on the employees’ workstation to see if there are modifications that are needed to help address the employee’s complaints. Our goal is to give the employee a healthy quality life inside the Tempur work field as well as when the employees are off duty.

How do you feel your company was set apart from other companies who might apply for this award?

Tempur has been rebuilding the safety culture over the previous years; the Tempur safety culture is the attitude, beliefs, perception and values that the employees share in relation to safety in our workplace. Tempur’s senior management commitment to safety, realistic practices for handling hazards, continuous organizational learning, and care and concern for hazards shared across the workforce. Employee involvement is not the goal nor is it a tool, we believe it is a management and leadership philosophy about how people are most enabled to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of our work organization.

Where do you see the future of your company in regard to Excellence in Safety?

The improvements Tempur has made of the past few years has made us a company with a world class safety score. Tempur has improved dramatically over the last 4 years due to employee involvement, upper management buy in, effective accident investigations, and no fault safety attitude. The national Recordable Case Rate for mattress manufacturing is 4.2 and Tempur’s 12 month average is .40 and we set an all-time high of working 362 days without a recordable incident.
What has winning this award meant to your company? Have there been internal or community impacts of winning the award?

By winning this award it has proven to the company that the time, man power and money that company invested to improve the Safety Program was a great success. Our employees along with Tempur do a great job to ensure that safety is one of the top priorities of every work day and winning this award validates all their hard work.

tempur building

Manufacturer of the Year: Scholle IPN

In October, SVAM honored six Southwest Virginia manufacturers with awards for their outstanding companies. Through this blog series, we would like to highlight the achievements of these manufacturers.


Melinda Roberts, Human Resources Manager

Scholle IPN in Chilhowie, VA was awarded our Manufacturer of the Year award. To learn more about the company and the impact of the award, we interviewed Melinda Roberts, Human Resources Manager at Scholle IPN.

Tell us about your company.

Scholle IPN is an industry-leading performance packaging company focused on bag-in-box, pouch packaging, and packaging components.   We have 19 worldwide sites and the Chilhowie, VA location has been in operation for more than 20 years with production of over 90 million bags produced in 2017.  The facility operates with empowered high performance work teams utilizing Lean and Six Sigma, MDI (Managing Daily Improvements) and strategic planning processes.

Tell us about the program(s) you have implemented that led you to win this award.

Safety – 1st Priority – Pursuit to Zero program requires 100% participation from all employees through a series of monthly safety activities assigned to all departments.  We have 4 Safety Core Values in which we operate by:  (1) I Matter – Nothing we do is worth risking injury (2) I Prevent – All incidents are preventable  (3) I Manage – Safety is a process we will manage.  (4) I am Responsible – I am responsible for the safety of myself & of my teammates.

Quality – 2nd Priority – We have 4 Quality Core Values in which we operate by: (1) I Believe – Believing that quality is our value to our customer (2) I Protect – Protecting our customer’s brand by preventing any quality and food safety incidents.  (3) I Build – Building quality into our systems, services and products every day and every hour.  (4) I am Responsible – Quality is every employee, supplier, and stakeholder’s responsibility.

We have a new Data Acquisition System in which we can have a bird’s eye view of a machines real time performance. We utilize employees for Kaizen Events and Six Sigma projects for continuous process improvements.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is considered a result of inputs from our Safety, Quality, Reactive Maintenance, Changeovers, Supply Chain, Production Scheduling, Continuous Improvement and Employee Engagement Programs.

We have networking teams throughout our company at different locations established for Safety, Quality, C.I. and Human Resources.  These teams collaborate and share best practices among our facilities.

Employee Engagement Program is theme based and helps build morale, teamwork and comradery within our organization.  We spotlight individual and plant contributions and reward employees for their hard work.  We have a variety of activities and goals that directly align with our Corporate Annual goals.

How do you feel your company was set apart from other companies who might apply for this award?

We use a Policy Deployment method in which our workforce becomes part of the business by deciding how to contribute to our strategic objectives.  So….in essence it’s our appreciation and utilization of our people that stands out.

Where do you see the future of your company in regard to being Manufacturer of the Year?

We continue to raise the bar each year with record setting, innovation and process improvements.  We will be growing our business and facility size in the future which will help create more wins for Scholle IPN.

What has winning this award meant to your company? Have there been internal or community impacts of winning the award?

It was a great honor to receive this award, knowing all of the great companies out there and the fact that Scholle IPN was chosen for the award.  We felt a sense of pride with our employees being recognized for their outstanding efforts.  It has allowed us to showcase our success to the community and our corporate group as well.

Any final thoughts or comments?

The greatest asset at Scholle IPN is our people and our daily work and core values in how we operate each day reflect the same.  Working together we unleash our creativity, driving engagement from the front line on up to plant management.  We consistently strive to beat our goals by leveraging our Employee Engagement program, Continuous Improvement, real time problem solving and innovation to remain competitive in an ever changing market.


For more information about Scholle IPN visit their website

NEWScholle IPN Logo - Red Box Slate Text

Creating a Kaizen Culture

Peter Miles, Technology Acceleration Manager at Genedge, recently led, “Creating a Kaizen Culture”, a training provided by SVAM and the SVAM Center of Excellence. The training covered:

  • Some of the key practices and methodologies that support the development of a Kaizen Culture.
  • How we can select specific approaches to handle different problems.
  • The most common causes of failure in process improvement initiatives and how to avoid them.

Below is a summary of the training. All notes were taken from Mr. Miles’ presentation. SVAM Members can view the full presentation here.

Why Process Improvement? Every company or organization provides a product or service to their customers. Customers will order from those companies that meet their expectations for better quality, lower price, and faster delivery. Process Improvement will help companies meet those three objectives. Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) is designed to help you meet your customer’s needs by achieving their expectations which builds a strong relationship. Since WWII many updates have been made in the Manufacturing Process Improvement from Training Within Industry, through Kaizen in both Japan and the USA to Lean Enterprise.

Lean…it’s all about speed. Lean’s outward focus is providing fast, responsive, and accurate delivery. Its inward focus is on eliminating or reducing waste in the process. These improvements are often executed using a Kaizen Event, which is typically a 3-5 day event. Lean is designed to attack wastes associated with defects, over production, waiting, non-utilized resources/talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and excess processing.

Origin of the Kaizen Event: The term Kaizen refers to Kaizen Events meant to improve or “lean out” processes. The 3-5 days approach was seen as the most efficient use of time, since most companies were paying Japanese Senseis to run the activity. It was re-introduced to American in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It is also known as a Rapid Improvement Event. It is an intense team effort to provide process improvement. There are “do-now” solutions through employee involvement and management must ensure availabilities for Kaizen execution. Over time the improvements become part of the job for all employees.

PDSA: Plan-Do-Study-Act is the traditional cycle used for Kaizen. The whole idea is to try a solution and test the results and repeat this process until satisfied with the result.


Core Kaizen Lean Tools include:

  • Value Stream Mapping to understand the flow and performance of the process.
  • Value-Add Analysis to identify improvement opportunities.
  • Work flow to reduce non-value added transportation steps and improve communication.
  • Process balance to balance workload and increase throughput.
  • Pull systems to control WIP and stabilize process cycle time.

Special Purpose Lean Tools include:

  • 5S: Sort, set in order, shines, standardize, and sustain for workplace organization.
  • Rapid changeover for improved flexibility and responsiveness.
  • Mistake-proofing to eliminate rework.
  • Total Preventative Maintenance to prevent breakdowns and down-time.

The Development of Six Sigma: Six Sigma was developed by Mikel Harry and Bill Smith as a data driven approach based on two main concepts:

  1. DMAIC methodology – A structured problem solving application based on a five stage method:
    1. Define
    2. Measure
    3. Analyze
    4. Improve
    5. Control
  2. The reduction of variation to create a more consistent product.

Lean Six Sigma Integration: Maintains health of your process. Lean is like a wellness program. Six Sigma is like a cure for a medical problem.

CPI Execution Levels: Use the “right size” method for the problem you have.

  • Daily Kaizen, Two Second Lean, Waste Outs, Itches and Scratches, Quick Wins
  • Kaizen Event, A3’s and 8D activities
  • The Lean Six Sigma Project
  • Kaizen Support

Work Culture

  • Culture: Customs and beliefs of a particular group at a particular time.
  • Work Culture: Customs and beliefs of workforce and how they function in the workplace.

Establishing a work culture takes relentless execution of work tasks in a way consistent with beliefs and behaviors. This will only succeed if it is considered beneficial by those who will have to adopt them.

What is Kaizen Culture? Kaizen means “change for the good.” It is about enabling people to make better decisions to improve the work environment, achieving goals, and reaching the vision.

Connecting Kaizen Culture with Process Improvement: The culture is all about doing things better than before. Achieving real, ongoing process improvements is a key component to Kaizen Culture.

Core Kaizen Concepts:

  • We are all in this together. Everyone contributes.
  • Problems are the result of inadequate processes not individual human mistakes.


Kaizen Culture Behaviors

  • Humility – a willingness to be wrong.
  • Alignment – we are all in it together.
  • Security – an environment of openness and honesty.
  • Respect – acknowledge others and their contributions.
  • Service – acknowledge we’re here to serve the customer.
  • Process – a deep understanding of processes.
  • Urgency – move current issues.
  • Connection – connect across organization.
  • Consensus – reach decisions through discussion.
  • Sharing – share best practices.

Establishing a Kaizen Culture

  1. Nothing succeeds like success: In the early days of a CPI “start up” it is critical to achieve some success to establish credibility.
  2. Workplace organization: Ensure the work culture is organized; this will help identify opportunities for improvement and make it easier to implement them. The 5S method is the most common way of doing this.
  3. Recognize internal opportunities: Developing a workforce that can recognize the “eight wastes” in processes as opportunities for improvement.
  4. Recognizing external opportunities: Ideas for process improvements that come from the demands of management or the customer base.
  5. Daily Kaizen: Organic activity that allows decisions for change to be delegated to those who actually work the process.
  6. CPI Events: Start small, but start. Try a Kaizen Event with a clearly achievable, Lean based goal.
  7. Establish a CPI Deployment Approach: Establish formal procedures to ensure improvement in the most needed areas.
  8. Senior Management Involvement: Management must be seen as actively involved and CPI should be seen as a key corporate goal.
  9. A “Showcase” department: Focus CPI efforts in one department and as things improve it becomes a showcase.
  10. Applying a critical mass to projects: Ensure you bring a critical mass of resources to each project so it can be promptly completed.
  11. Avoid scope creep: Properly define boundaries of the project so that it doesn’t keep growing.
  12. Bias for action: Those who work on Process Improvements should have an understanding of their authority and feel empowered to act on it.
  13. The “horse is dead”: If a project has lost momentum either revitalize or kill it.
  14. Communications: Regular published updates on progress are key.
  15. Handling change: Create a Culture and Work Structure that can handle the changes that will result from Process Improvement.
  16. Acknowledge and celebrate success: It is key to show appreciation for all involved.
  17. The limitations of Process Improvement: Attempts to use PDSA or DMAIC in areas such as a new process or product should be avoided.
  18. Surviving transitions: If CPI deployment isn’t fully integrated it could come under close scrutiny by those unfamiliar with the benefits.

Front Line Supervisors “Walk the High Wire”

Dr. Aubrey Lee, Associate Professor for the School of Business and Economics at King University, writes today’s guest Blog.

The Harvard Business Review correctly said that “Performing well as a first-level supervisor is like walking a circus high wire.” Both require the ability to maintain one’s balance when shifting forces sometimes pull in opposite direction. First-level supervisors in SVAM organizations must be meet the demands of management, and the demands of workers who count them for leadership as they produce the company’s products.
Louise Lees, writing for the company Matchtech, offered six qualities successful supervisors must possess in order to effectively lead those they are supervising. Having worked in human resources for several manufacturing companies, I agree with Ms. Lees’ list which includes:
1. Good communication skills
Front line supervisors spend most of their time working on the shop floor and have first-hand knowledge of the dynamic manufacturing process. This requires considerable knowledge about information that must be passed on to employees and management. Strong communication skills are key.
2. Confident decision making
In SVAM companies there are constant deadlines, often resulting unexpected questions arising at short notice. The best supervisors are decisive in pressurized situations to make sure that deadlines are met.
3. Ability to act quickly
While decision making is important to supervisors, they must also be able to quickly respond to questions from their team and management. Responding quickly to challenging situations like mistakes or delays on a project is key to making sure that issues get resolved promptly.
4. Effective planning
 Supervisors must constantly be planning ahead to motivate the team to deliver the finished product on time and, ideally, under budget. In addition to planning the future of the project, experienced  supervisors must keep the team aware of the plans that enable goals to be met.
5. An eye for detail
Another important attribute supervisors must have is attention to detail. Many manufacturing processes involve physically assembling many, often complicated, components to create the final product.
6. Ability to take ownership
Being in a decision-making position, supervisors must be confident in their abilities and take ownership in their work and the decisions they make. Having confidence allows them to correctly advise and manage their team while working alongside them on the project and to correct any potential mistakes.
Dr. Aubrey Lee
Associate Professor
School of Business and Economics
King University
Office:  318 Bristol Hall
1350 King College Road, Bristol TN 37620

Meet the Makers: Sam Cassell

Utility-Sam-sqThrough this blog series we will introduce you to local manufacturing workers and explore their career paths and how manufacturing has positively impacted their lives. We want to show the community how manufacturing allows individuals to have a career they are proud of and enjoy.
We would like to introduce you to Sam Cassell, Plant Manager at Utility Trailer Manufacturing in Glade Spring, Virginia, manufacturer of Dry Van trailers. Manufacturing has provided Sam with a rewarding and beneficial career for 30 years. We sat down with Sam to talk about the progression of his career and why he has stayed in manufacturing for such a long time.


What led you to pursue a career in manufacturing?

It started when I was a young boy, a child wanting to play and tinker with little pieces of motors that used to come in toys, to tear them apart whether they would break accidentally or on purpose. Again, as a young kid I was just intrigued with how they worked and how we could take them apart and make other things with them. It just grew from there. Now that I look back on it, it was from childhood that got me interested and it continued on through school.

draftingTell us about your start in manufacturing.

I got started in my manufacturing career with Utility Trailer back in 1989 when the Atkins facility was opening up. I started there on the line and actually built the front wall on the third trailer that went down the production line. From there I had planned to just stay six months and move on to something else, but I found it very interesting, very challenging and neat that we were building something as large as a trailer. From there I had some opportunity within the company to move into different areas and gain a vast knowledge of the product. I have held the positions of Quality Inspector, Production Supervisor, Order Planning Supervisor, Quality Manager, and Plant Superintendent. Eventually I was given the opportunity to move into my current position as Plant Manager.

What education or training did you have before you started your job?

What is now referred to as a Carrier Center was once called Trade School. In Trade School I studied Drafting and blueprint reading. Back then it was the old green tables, nothing like you see today, but it was mechanical drafting. We got into drawing parts, both small and large, and we could see how they would work and come together. I found that very interesting, just being able to draw something from scratch, really just imaginary and how they could be put together and made to do different things. I got into blueprint reading and did a lot of that back in my high school days. When I graduated I went to college for a little bit, but I don’t know if I wasn’t ready for college or college wasn’t ready for me, it could go both ways. I didn’t finish college at that time. I went into the military for awhile. I went into the Army and got into working on tank systems. After the military I went to work for Utility Trailer. Then I finished my education and received my degree in business at age fifty. I personally found finishing my degree at an older age to be a benefit. I had a much better understanding of how to apply that education on the job and how to apply my years of experience in the class room. I have found that my business and drafting/blue printing education are equally important. I use each every day.

Sam 75000Tell us about your education/training throughout your career.

I have had on the job everyday training as manufacturing and our product continues to evolve for the customer needs. We’re faced with something new quite often. Training continues today.  Over the years I have received training in areas such as computer, heavy equipment brake systems, welding, and electrical painting, There is a lot that goes into building a trailer, it changes all the time so training is continuous.  Utility Trailer values training so a lot of time is devoted to this area. All employees begin training on day one.  We not only train on how to build trailers and operating tools, time is spent on safety, a lot of time on safety including proper lifting, wearing of personal protection equipment (PPE),  classes on blue print reading, use of measuring equipment, we have several on site with first aid / CPR training. I’m sure I will continue to go to trainings for the rest of my career.

Tell us about the progression of your career.

It started early on, I didn’t even know it. I got into my job and found I was liking it and learning. I was a lot younger then, and it was kind of cool to see we were building something with our hands and we could actually see the end product. We could see it out on the interstate each and every day and know that we had a part in doing that. There was a manager of mine early on, he didn’t tell me at that time, but it was shared with me many years later, and I asked him how I got where I am. He said to me, “Sam, we saw early on that you had something that we could use here. You had some work ethic, you had a good character and some knowledge, and the ability to do more and to learn.” Has it been easy? No. Some of the jobs and opportunities have been tough. Have all of them been a success? No, some of them have failed. But, to be honest, I think I’ve learned more from those failures than I ever have on the successes. I think it’s made me stronger and more hard headed to see current and future projects through to the end.

sam quoteWhat has this career meant to you?

Those people that we work with each and every day, it doesn’t just stop here. When we go home and people clock out our relationship doesn’t just stop. We see many of the people out in the community that we see here each day. Many times we’ll find ourselves out on the fence at a Little League game talking about what we just did today. I’ll get stories about the good, the bad, and the ugly about the job. When we’re out there together, outside of these walls, we share a lot. It’s not just me and the individuals who work here, it’s our families as well.


Watch the video below to find out why Sam has stayed in manufacturing for thirty years.

Meet the Makers: Dawn Archer

Through this blog series we will introduce you to local manufacturing workers and explore their career paths and how manufacturing has positively impacted their lives. We want to show the community how manufacturing allows individuals to have a career they are proud of and enjoy.

Dawn 1

We would like to introduce you to Dawn Archer, Senior Manufacturing Operations Manager at General Dynamics Mission Systems in Marion, Virginia. Manufacturing has provided Dawn with a rewarding and beneficial career for 38 years. We sat down with Dawn to talk about the progression of her career and why she has stayed in manufacturing for such a long time.

What led you to pursue a career in manufacturing?

I was led to a career in manufacturing through my father. He worked as a Tooling and Facility Manager and as a Composites Product Manager here at this same facility, which at that time was called Brunswick Corporation.

Tell us about your start in manufacturing.

I went to work for Brunswick Corporation in 1980. I was 22 years old and my original position was an Engineering Technician. After three months in the Engineering Technician position, I was promoted to Program Coordinator in the Production Control Department.

What education and training did you have before you started your job?

I graduated locally from Marion Senior High School, then attended Virginia Tech. While at Virginia Tech I studied Political Science and Sociology. That background today doesn’t really sound like it fits in manufacturing, but back in 1980 with so few women in manufacturing positions, as long as you had a solid educational background, the company took the time to train you for the position you were hired to perform.  Today after 38 years of working in almost every area of the business, including 2 years at one of our business unit headquarters, I would have to say that it has been advantageous to be a part time politician and social worker.  Today with many technology changes in manufacturing, an educational background in science, technology, engineering, or math is beneficial.

Tell us about your continued education and training throughout your career.

Obviously, there was lots of on-the-job training.  Additionally, I continued my education taking several APICS [the association for supply chain management] courses, along with training in supervision, auditing, Lean 101, Lean Leadership, business writing, and communication & negotiation skills. In December 2003, I graduated from the President’s Leadership and Development Program, which was a 12-month program in Burlington, Vermont, that was established for GDATP (General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products) future leaders of the business.

Tell us about the progression of your career.

I was hired into manufacturing in 1980 as an Engineering Technician and was then promoted to a Program Coordinator in Production Control. From that position, I began to transition to Program Coordinator II, Master Scheduler, Manager Production & Material Control / Stockroom & Traffic, and then moved to Manager Radomes & Composite Manufacturing Plant 3. In 2003, I graduated from the President’s Leadership and Development Program and became the Director of Ethics in 2004. The Director of Ethics job required me to move to Charlotte, NC and work out of our GDATP headquarters.  At GDATP headquarters, I was a member of the senior staff and worked directly for the President of the company. Reporting directly to the President was a great opportunity that allowed me to travel to all of the GDATP locations and meet all of the people that manufactured the products for our business unit.

In 2006, the GDATP business unit reorganized.  At that point, the new Vice President over the Marion facility asked me to move back to Marion and I was appointed the Director of Production Planning and Support for Advanced Materials. In that job, I had responsibility of the planning support groups in Marion as well as our facility in Lincoln, Nebraska.  In 2008, I was appointed Director Manufacturing Operations and was responsible for all manufacturing activities.  In 2016, I was appointed the Director of Production and Material Planning / Aerostructures Operations Manager.  In 2018, our company moved into the GDMS (General Dynamics Mission Systems) business unit and titles changed to map with GDMS titles.  So currently I am Senior Manager, Manufacturing Operations, with the same oversight as in 2016.

What has it been about manufacturing that has made you want to stay in it as long as you have?

I have stayed in a manufacturing role simply because I love what I do.  I love everything that manufacturing brings to the table. There is always something new.  New processes, new techniques, new products, new equipment, new customers, and new ways of doing business through continuous improvement.  I’ve also stayed because of the people.  My co-workers, salary and hourly, have become a part of my extended family and that makes me work even harder, because I want this business to survive and excel.  I want all of my co-workers to have a long career like I have been blessed with.

Looking back, can you tell us about some highlights of your career?

When I first came to work here I applied for the first two positions that I held.  The main highlight of my career that I am most proud of is that after those first two positions, I have been recognized and rewarded with promotions and new responsibilities on numerous occasions, without ever applying for another position, which has meant so much to me.

A second highlight in my career was the opportunity to work at our GDATP business unit headquarters. Working at our headquarters gave me a tremendous amount of knowledge pertaining to how the General Dynamics business operates and it opened doors for me to develop business relationships, throughout all of General Dynamics.  While at headquarters for 2 years, I developed an award winning Ethics program that received local, state, and national awards, which will always be a highlight in my career.

Finally, I would say being a third term member of the labor contract negotiating team. We have a union (UAW Local 2850) at the Marion facility, and we have to negotiate our labor contract usually every 3 – 5 years.  I have been fortunate enough to sit at the table with the union and management teams on three different contract labor agreements. Only a small handful of management employees get to experience the labor negotiation process, and that is an experience I will always remember.

What has this career meant to you?

This career in manufacturing has meant everything to me. It has given me many opportunities to grow as an individual by working with others, mentoring new employees, and developing myself. Having all the jobs that I’ve held the last 38 years, I’ve touched many production areas, almost every department, and almost every employee at the Marion facility.  One favorite memory from my experiences was in 2016, being part of a 4-person team that won a General Dynamics Manufacturing Excellence award for the successful start-up of the Gulfstream G600 program.  That award was a true success story for the company and for me personally.

My career has provided more than I ever dreamed would be possible for a young girl who started to work in manufacturing over 38 years ago.  The company has been very good to me through my promotions and through my job responsibilities. The company benefits have allowed me to provide for my family and serve my community through many community service activities and Board memberships. Without this manufacturing career, my experiences might have been few, and in my opinion I would have been a totally different person.

Watch the video below to find out more about Dawn’s 38 year manufacturing career.

Meet the Makers: Gene Chumley

Through this blog series we will introduce you to local manufacturing workers and explore their career paths and how manufacturing has positively impacted their lives. We want to show the community how manufacturing allows individuals to have a career they are proud of and enjoy.


We would like to introduce you to Gene Chumley, Engineering Services Manager at Strongwell in Bristol, Virginia. Manufacturing has provided Gene with a rewarding and beneficial career for 32 years. We sat down with Gene to talk about the progression of his career and why he has stayed in manufacturing for such a long time.

What led you to pursue a career in manufacturing?

Actually, I stumbled upon manufacturing. I was right out of college and looking for a job and once I started it I fell in love with manufacturing, and I’ve been in it ever since.

Tell us about your start in manufacturing

I started in 1986 at Electrolux in Piney Flats, Tennessee. I was working at a brand new electric motor plant.

What education and training did you have before you started your job?

I had a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee.

Tell us about your continued education and training throughout your career.

Through tuition reimbursement through the company I was able to pursue a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management through the University of Tennessee through an extension program. I also earned Green Belt in Lean Sigma.

Tell us about the progression of your career.

I started out as an entry level engineer at Electrolux and I worked my way up to Senior Development Engineer and I was there for 12 years. Then I moved onto West Tennessee for about two years as a Senior Project Engineer with Maytag. I had to get back to this area, so I moved back. I worked at Bristol Compressors for 18 years. I started there as a Senior Design Engineer and worked my way up to Manager of Engineering Services. Now I work for Strongwell Corporation in Bristol, VA.

Looking back, can you tell us about some highlights of your career?

From here looking back at my career it’s got to be working with other people, helping people, mentoring them, and seeing other people grow in their careers. That shows a lot of satisfaction for me. I really love seeing other people succeed in their manufacturing careers.

What has it been about manufacturing that has made you want to stay in it as long as you have?

I’ve wanted to stay in manufacturing this long because of the great people I work with. I also enjoy the fact that everything is always different. I cannot remember ever having two days that were exactly the same. I also enjoy facing challenges and being able to solve problems. I like the fact that manufacturing is the bedrock of our economy. You’re able to take raw materials and through processes turn it into a finished good that somebody is willing to pay for, and it serves a need for someone else.

What has this career meant to you?

My career has been a huge part of my life. I enjoy working in the manufacturing industry. Meeting dates and completing projects successfully gives a great feeling of job satisfaction. My career has also allowed me to afford the time to do the hobbies I enjoy and spend time with my family. It has given my family a very good life. I feel truly blessed.

Watch the video below to find out more about why Gene has built his career in manufacturing.