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The City of Columbus, Ohio attempted two competitive initiatives in the recent past but failed to achieve sustained continuous improvements or employee buy-in. The work force was disgruntled, resistant to change, and skeptical of “another fad program.” In addition, the union – management relationship was confrontational, cost of services was not competitive and escalating, and employee participation in continuous improvement was minimal.

To improve, labor and management jointly designed an improvement system that included Organization and Safety (5s), Standardized Work, Kaizen (continuous improvement) practices, Total Productive Maintenance, Team Concept and Visual Management to focus on the highest quality services at the lowest possible cost. The system relies on a structured yet easy to understand seven step method to identify and implement focused improvements. It emphasized training every employee to be capable of implementing productive change within his or her area of expertise.

The program started in the fall of 2000 and training of all 575+ employees was completed in December 2002. Two months after training was complete the utility achieved savings in operating costs of 8.4 million, no rate increase for five years, implemented over 430 employee improvements, produced about 250 Standardized Procedures, and established an operator PM (preventive maintenance) program. There were also significant reductions in lost time injuries, grievances and labor—management conflict. In fact, performance and relationship between labor and management was so significant that both the Mayor and City Council adopted it as a model continuous improvement program for other City Departments to follow.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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