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Employee suggestion system benefits company and workers.

Firms large and small are boosting their profits quickly with a well-organized suggestion system.

Many companies are realizing the benefits of an organized system of soliciting, processing and implementing employees' ideas on how to improve costs and procedures, reduce wastes and enhance the overall competitiveness of their operations.

Two general objectives to be kept in mind when establishing an employee suggestion program are:

* Provide an organized method for employees to submit constructive ideas. These ideas should extend beyond normal duties and contribute to one or more of the following: increases in operating efficiency; savings to the company (money, time, labor or materials); safer or more healthful working conditions; improved employee-employer relations.

* Reward employees who submit suggestions that are implemented.

Experience shows a suggestion system won't work unless it includes provisions for benefits for employees who submit ideas.

The benefits usually are financial but may be in other forms (prizes, pay increases, promotions, written commendations, public recognition ceremonies or other positive reinforcement techniques). Some firms include management in the same benefit package as hourly workers, while others have separate programs for salaried employees.

There are two important preliminaries to the installation of a successful suggestion program:

* Obtain top-level management support. Active support is necessary from top management to supervision at the foreman level.

* Formulate detailed policies and procedures in writing. The suggestion program manual should cover general policy, eligibility, administrative personnel, forms, methods of submission, processing, benefits and promotion.

General Policy

A positive statement of policy is important. It should outline objectives and administrative responsibilities, define terms and specify the company's legal rights under the program. Included in the policy statement should be an explanation of what constitutes an acceptable suggestion.

Among other objectives, the suggestion should be intended to benefit the company or its employees in some manner, and should recommend an action that is beyond the expectancy of the suggestor's duties and responsibilities.

The suggestion should not be considered acceptable if it merely points out a fault--it must also suggest a solution. The policy definition should also note that suggestions may cover new ideas or new applications of old ideas.

The policy statement should define acceptable suggestions in dealing with specific areas such as improvements in manufacturing methods; savings in labor, materials or supplies; prevention or reduction of waste; improvements in product quality; safety precautions to eliminate or reduce hazards; and improvements in tools, machinery, equipment or facilities.

Unacceptable suggestions should also be defined. Included are those: submitted by ineligible employees; dealing with matters of company policy; relating to patents; dealing with legal interpretation; and those that duplicate previously submitted ideas.

A suggestion is considered adopted if it has been authorized by a reviewing committee for trial. Final adoption occurs after an idea has been tested and determined useful and workable in the foundry. Final adoption is the basis for rewarding the suggestor. Some companies provide some form of preliminary reward and/or recognition to the suggestor when the suggestion is authorized by the reviewing committee.

Some companies also provide for resubmission of rejected suggestions at a later date. Circumstances may change, making the original reason for rejection no longer valid.

Eligibility must be established for both suggestors and suggestions. The eligibility of suggestors ranges among companies from any nonsupervisory person to everyone, including vice presidents. Some companies maintain a separate program for management personnel.

Eligibility of suggestions normally requires that suggestions deal with something outside the suggestor's normal area of work. For example, a safety engineer shouldn't be paid twice for inventing a new way to protect plant workers. Successful suggestion programs, however, operate under a minimum number of restrictions regarding acceptability of ideas.

Personnel

Administrators of the suggestion program are fundamental to its success. The suggestion administrator should be a person of sound reasoning ability and general understanding. Administrators should be familiar with all phases of company operations and efficient in analyzing and processing suggestions as well as tactful when they must be rejected. Faith in the program should be strong and reflected by the enthusiasm with which they solicit the support of all levels of management and the cooperation of potential suggestors.

The final disposition of suggestions usually is determined by a committee comprised of three to five managers. It may also include a worker representative. Whenever possible, the plant manager should serve on the committee.

Members should represent various company areas such as engineering, finance, manufacturing, quality assurance, production and inventory control. Each member should have a designated alternate.

The duties of the suggestion committee include:

* developing a thorough knowledge of the suggestion program in order to administer it in line with company policy;

* attending regularly scheduled meetings or being represented by alternates;

* evaluating each submitted idea and forming decisions by majority vote;

* authorizing and delegating responsibility for implementing accepted ideas;

* considering possible extensions of worthwhile suggestions to company activities beyond those to which the original suggestion applied;

* determining and authorizing award payments or other benefits.

The suggestion committee's efforts will be ineffective without the aid of supervision. The supervisor must support the program by promoting it among employees and cooperate by giving positive comments on suggestions concerning their area of the operation. A conscientious supervisor who gives a prompt and unbiased opinion of a suggestion will help ensure adoption of a worthwhile idea or save the employer from attempting to implement a suggestion that perhaps only the supervisor knows would be useless, wasteful and maybe even harmful.

Submitting Ideas

No matter how attractive a suggestion program is, most potential suggestors won't participate unless only a minimum of effort is required. Most suggestion forms follow a general pattern. At the top of the form is the company name and identifying words (such as suggestion form). Spaces are provided for the nature of the suggestion, a description of present conditions and the suggestion itself. Spaces for the suggestor's full name, badge number, department, signature and date also are needed.

A statement should be included documenting that the suggestor is voluntarily submitting his idea under the specific company suggestion program, is familiar with the program, is assigning the rights of the suggestion to the company, and agrees to the company's decisions regarding eligibility, adoption, rejection, and award as final and binding.

No suggestion should be accepted for consideration unless it appears on the company form. In addition to well-placed suggestion boxes, it is often wise to provide for mailing suggestions, using self-addressed envelopes supplied by the company. This helps avoid negative peer pressure by those antagonistic to the suggestion program.

Any point of congregation is a potential location for a suggestion box. The exceptions are plant entrances or time-clock areas, where traffic is heavy and employees are usually in a hurry. Boxes should be attractively painted, well lighted and maintained with care.

Processing Suggestions

Suggestions should be collected regularly and date-stamped to ensure proper priority in case of duplication. The suggestion coordinator screens each suggestion to determine if it is acceptable under the rules of the program and whether the suggestor is eligible.

If the suggestion is disqualified, it should be immediately returned to the suggestor with an explanation of why it isn't being processed. The suggestor should be thanked and encouraged to submit other suggestions in the future.

If the suggestion passes acceptability and eligibility tests, it is given an identifying number and duplicated. The original is retained in the coordinator's file and a letter is sent to the suggestor acknowledging receipt of his idea. The suggestion then proceeds to the investigation stage for determining which departments or operations would be affected by the proposed change.

After investigation, a report is prepared for the suggestion committee. The report should contain a discussion of the suggestion, its advantages and recommendations for disposition.

If the suggestion committee thinks an idea has sufficient merit, it votes to adopt the suggestion for trial. The coordinator then notifies the department concerned and follows through to assure the trial gets under way. If the trial proves successful, the reward to the suggestor is determined.

Benefits

A well-run suggestion program benefits both the employer and employee. The company benefits when suggestions result in improved products and operations and reduced costs. It also benefits because opportunities for personal reward and recognition promote higher worker morale and better employer-employee relations.

Employees benefit not only from material rewards, but from recognition for their efforts and a feeling of importance from knowing they have contributed to the company's success. Employees also benefit from having a medium through which to express themselves.

Cash awards for suggestions usually range from 10-20% of the first year's savings. Some companies fix a maximum amount that will be awarded for a suggestion. Analysis to determine savings should be carefully made with the assistance of the accounting, industrial engineering, production control and other departments, as necessary.

If the benefits are intangible or noncalculable, the suggestion committee determines an award based on the value of the suggestion.

Promoting the Program

Employees must be reminded constantly of the suggestion program and the benefits it offers. This activity begins with top management showing its support and enthusiasm for the program at every opportunity. It can do this by writing letters to employees, issuing statements for use in employee publications and local newspapers, and participating in award ceremonies.

Top management and suggestion staff should sell supervisors on the suggestion program so that they will promote it among employees. Supervisors should be provided with regular reports on the progress of the program.

Training films and literature also are useful in emphasizing the importance of the supervisor to the success of the program. Other means of promotion include posters, booklets, special displays, naming "suggestors of the month" and circulation of trophies.

But most important is the continuing involvement of management and supervisors as well as an active suggestion coordinator. Finally, the best promotion program is one that is prompt and properly processes suggestions.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Modern Casting
Date:May 1, 1992
Words:1644
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