Management and operational organisation are key differentiators of company performance, and important determinants of productivity. This is true across all sectors, but particularly in branded manufacturing where completely consistent high quality is critical. Like other advanced manufacturers, Nestlé’s model is built on understanding that the individual is key to effectiveness and efficiency.
Far from requiring top-down direction, Nestlé’s management principles emphasise building confidence among employees to take initiative. This means equipping them with technical understanding of the machines they use and giving them the skills to make improvements to processes, address problems and prevent them before they develop. The approach requires managers to step back and trust and empower their people, and the workforce to step up to the responsibility for their own efficiency. In Nestlé’s case the UK has been a marked success in this respect and there are more gains to be made.
This way of working is encapsulated in the Nestlé Continuous Excellence (NCE) concept and the disciplines of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) that it incorporates. These provide the framework for ambitious structured programmes of coaching, feedback and teamwork at all levels. Both focus on finding local, bottom-up improvements to individual production lines.
At the heart of this are standardised problem-solving approaches coupled to clear progression for individuals from learning to coaching and teaching others. Above all, NCE and TPM succeed because of the mentality of the workforce.
There are few ‘quick wins’ to this approach, but over multi-year periods the same team using the same equipment can achieve huge reductions in the amount of time lost to idle machinery, and in the loss of resources and ingredients through waste. For example developing new cleaning techniques, and identifying and targeting repeat problem areas in individual production lines, have in some cases nearly doubled the output of those lines over time.