How do you increase operational discipline and create a sense of ownership for safety and performance in a large, constantly changing and very diverse multinational workforce?
The challenging labour conditions make this a common dilemma for the food manufacturing industry. Supervisors, managers and team leaders are in a unique position to engage people and establish a mindset that recognises both risks and improvement opportunities. As safety and operations fundamentally depend on each other, changes in one area will influence outcomes in the other. For maximum benefit, they should therefore be managed in tandem as there is a risk that an isolated focus on each will make the other suffer.
The role of frontline leaders
In the complex environment the food industry currently finds itself in, a good deal depends on the ability of supervisors to understand, interpret, communicate and implement corporate strategy down line, while also keeping the shop floor engaged, motivated and focused. When this does not happen, quality, efficiency, safety and performance suffer.
At the same time, supervisors face increased reporting and data requirements and are under pressure from senior leadership to meet productivity and cost targets, as well as food safety standards and HSE goals. In fact, supervisors today not only have to lead, enforce and motivate, but are furthermore expected to function as teachers, enablers, connectors and change agents. It is a demanding, multifaceted role that requires good communication, decision making, conflict management, prioritisation and delegation skills.
That’s a lot to ask, but it is achievable with the right approach and training as a leading specialist meat-packing business recently proved.