High-quality materials, an open room layout, and above all, plenty of space: The architecture of the new factory in Cartago symbolizes the ambitious goals of Heraeus Medical Components in Costa Rica. “We want to grow,” says plant manager Patrick Griffin. This is a path that calls for continuous improvement—and outside support. A milestone along the way, says Griffin, was the Leadership Excellence on the Shop Floor program. The Cartago plant participated in this program during 2018, along with other locations around the world. Natalia Munoz was one of the managers who took part. She is now a production supervisor, with responsibility for more than 50 employees during her shift. “The program showed me what we can achieve with teamwork,” she says. “And it boosted my self-confidence: I learned to trust myself and my decisions—and that we can only improve ourselves when we break out of the routine.”
Based on a comprehensive leadership model, Heraeus promotes the development of its managers around the world—including in production. In Costa Rica, an interdisciplinary team has focused on ways to improve processes, communication, and the work culture at the plant.
Practical relevance is key
The training program for production managers, shift leaders, and foremen focuses on learning by doing. Although it includes seminar elements, the participants spend the majority of their time in production. There, guided by the trainer, they implement specific projects, improving their leadership skills as they optimize the actual production processes. Munoz uses the results and insights from the program every day, she says—for one thing, in dealing with her fellow employees. “I listen, take their needs seriously, and do what I can to create working conditions under which they can develop their potential.” She’s also learned a great deal that she finds useful for optimizing processes and production flows.
“I thought it was important to adapt the program to meet the specific circumstances in our factory,” Griffin says. Thus, managers from the Operations team were joined by their counterparts from Quality, Warehouse Management, Training, and Maintenance. “We sent the signal that the topics of lean production and leadership are important for our whole team—not just for Production.”