There is more to modern manufacturing than mechanically performing tasks. Today’s state-of-the-art facilities are arenas where critical thinking, innovation, and intelligent strategies are key to succeeding and thriving. KMM’s fundamental principle, “Paid to Think,” encapsulates this intention. Not only does it drive our organizational success, but it also speaks to the heart of our culture, where every idea is welcomed and innovative thinking is not only encouraged but celebrated.
This post is part of our ongoing series highlighting our Fundamentals, or the driving behaviors and principles behind our success. By spotlighting “Paid to Think,” we aim to delve deeper into its significance, demonstrate its practical applications within our organization, and illustrate how it can help mission-critical companies overcome thorny manufacturing challenges.
The Essence of Being Paid to Think
At its core, being “Paid to Think” challenges every team member to not just complete tasks but also to question how they can be done better, more efficiently, and with optimal results. The focus is on enhancing output and quality while reducing waste and error. This doesn’t mean simply cutting corners. Instead, it’s about understanding the essence of a task or a problem, pondering deeply about its nuances, and devising a method that ensures the goal is achieved with the best possible outcomes. While Lean manufacturing principles lead the way, “Paid to Think” amplifies this by fostering an environment where continuous improvement goes beyond methodology to ingrain a mindset in every team member’s approach to their work.
For instance, let’s consider the precision manufacturing process. Traditional approaches might involve a set method with fixed inputs and outputs. But when an employee is “Paid to Think,” they might ask: Can we use a different material to achieve the same result but with less financial impact? Can technology automate a specific manual process, leading to time savings? Can we reorganize the production line to be more efficient? These questions can lead to groundbreaking innovations, substantial cost savings, and enhanced productivity, helping to make the impossible possible.
A Culture of Free Thinking
One of the most potent aspects of our “Paid to Think” principle is the freedom it grants to our team. In many organizations, employees might hesitate to voice a new idea or innovative solution for fear of overstepping boundaries or facing repercussions. However, at KMM, we foster a culture where employees are encouraged to think outside the box and are trusted to act without always needing approval. This free-thinking environment ensures that innovation is neither restricted nor stifled.
On the topic of our company culture and its impact on professional growth, Director of Human Resources Michelle Martin-Laughlin shared in our Insights from Women in Manufacturing post: “This is the first place I’ve worked where you have the structure of your role, but within that structure, you have the freedom to make decisions. No decision is considered the wrong decision. We have the flexibility and freedom to make mistakes.” She further emphasized KMM’s forward-thinking approach with an organizational saying, “Always make new mistakes.” This philosophy underscores the idea that some of the most innovative breakthroughs often emerge from initial missteps or unexpected outcomes. At KMM, it’s not about avoiding errors but about allowing employees to explore fresh approaches and ideas, recognizing that sometimes the path to brilliance might begin with an unintended turn.
Becoming Technology Smart
Central to the “Paid to Think” principle is the commitment to harnessing the transformative power of technology, particularly the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. Technology adoption is just the beginning in today’s increasingly digital manufacturing landscape. Ultimately, it’s about leveraging it judiciously and strategically.
It’s no longer about being tech-savvy – it’s about being tech-smart. This means understanding the latest technological tools while discerning which can optimize operations and drive innovation. “Paid to Think” urges us to go beyond the superficial allure of new technologies. Instead, it champions the idea of carefully assessing, selecting, and integrating these tools into our workflows in ways that add real value.
By focusing on a tech-smart approach, we enhance efficiency and productivity and foster an environment where technology catalyzes creative problem-solving and groundbreaking solutions to challenges that often elude other manufacturers.
Every Role, Every Opportunity
One prevalent misconception is that innovative thinking is reserved for those in specific roles, typically those in upper managerial tiers or directly involved in strategic decision-making. Yet, the essence of our “Paid to Think” principle lies in its all-encompassing applicability. Whether it’s administration, engineering, production, or even customer service, every role in the organization has the potential to innovate and work smarter under the umbrella of this fundamental.
For example, take Nicole’s journey at KMM. When she first started, Nicole was not well-versed in the intricacies of manufacturing. Her aim was simple: to make an impact and demonstrate her capabilities. Beginning her journey as a custodian during the challenging times of the pandemic, she embodied the “Paid to Think” mindset. Nicole continuously sought ways to approach her role strategically and prove her value. Her persistence and innovative attitude were recognized, leading her to climb the ranks. She transitioned from the shipping and receiving department, made significant contributions to the quality team, and eventually became the sole female presence among six wire grinders, working alongside the supervisor and director.
Nicole’s story is a testament to the fact that innovation and strategic thinking are not confined to specific roles but are qualities that can be exhibited and valued in any position within the organization.
Paid to Think: A Fundamental Principle Beyond Value
KMM’s guiding principle, “Paid to Think,” is more than a phrase—it’s an invitation. It challenges every member of our organization to look beyond the obvious, challenge the status quo, and consistently seek ways to enhance output while minimizing waste. This principle champions the mindset of working hard – and smart. In the ever-evolving manufacturing landscape, especially with the onset of Industry 4.0, embracing such an idea is fundamental to our success.
Contact us to learn more about how “Paid to Think” drives our operations and how it can produce groundbreaking solutions to your mission-critical manufacturing challenges.