Translocation of an international corporation’s factory
This client decided to close a factory in Sweden after a planned move abroad. This decision was communicated in general, but the details were not. The closure was not negotiated with the union representatives. The managers had already left the company. A plant manager must run the business up until closure with no loss of quality and deliver on time, and at the same time make sure that the production continues during the move itself without a loss of equipment and competence. It is vital that a seasoned leader take control.
Our interim manager started off by building a platform to work from and made great efforts in getting to know the staff and key personnel in other countries. He was very clear that he wanted to understand and emphasized the importance of seeing the individual and stimulate team work.
– I was being honest about that the decision was final and made the staff understand the importance of continuity and try to do the best out of a bad situation.
Regular information is key
Keeping a steady pace with decisions and processes was key as well as supporting the good parts. A prerequisite was to keep the information easy accessible using the catchwords fast, open, and clear. Problems that concerned the staff was discussed. If more information channels were needed, they were created. Like an information board!
– My philosophy is to involve and engage. I demand participation and I believe that the staff need to be part of the business and to push the improvements although not everyone gets everything they want. A prerequisite for this is easily accessible information and a lot of it. I also made sure to pay attention to and highlight the bright spots, such as when production and collaboration went very well. Informing the senior managers was at least as important. Seniors were kept informed and our interim created a simple structure with weekly emails that raised discrepancies, ambiguities and measures, which also gave him a structure to relate to.
Besides all change processes, the business must be kept going. One the challenges was to replace key personnel that already left. To avoid downtime interim staff was employed.
Top performance at the plant
The plant performed 100% during the nine months and even increasing the capacity, which was necessary because the stocks must be built up before the move itself. A new night shift was introduced, among other things.
– We carried out a controlled downsizing and closure with dignity and confidence, and the employees felt that they were appreciated. The staff was really Amazing.
Prepared of the real estate and plant for the new owners, which were not part of the original mandate and was a success. The company also supported computer training during working hours for the factory staff.
– We broke the finishing tape in a great way. The entire production line has successfully been moved to another country, and four of the company’s operators are working there temporarily, something that seemed nearly impossible a few months ago.
What are the interim manager’s own reflections and are what are the lessons learned from the assignment? A temp assignment have its particular challenges.
–I think it was valuable to be an “outsider” and not to have been part of the closure decision. I could discuss with the union rather than negotiate. This role gives a little more room for manoeuvre and I have taken on more and really enjoyed the work. In the future, I would rather work on assignments than being employed, preferably with a strong network like Nordic Interim backing me up.