Gabriela Drescher is the Senior Lean specialist for the Windsor plant. In her role Gabriela acts as a Lean trainer, coach, leader, facilitator, developer, assessor, and learner. She takes on many responsibilities including leading the hands-on learning and training, helping to develop and introduce global and local Lean initiatives, conducting VSO Lean assessments to drive improvement actions, and sharing lean methodologies throughout the organization.
Gabriela wears many hats but over November and December, she puts on one more: holiday manufacturing training coordinator. She took a break from the rush to talk about working at Cimpress during the holiday season.
What do you enjoy most about working here?
I enjoy being able to make a positive difference everywhere around me. For example, I enjoy seeing our people being transformed by the learning experience. It’s hard to explain, but I feel exhilarated when their faces light up with a newfound understanding; when they internalize that knowledge and know it is part of who they are.
This happens gradually during workshops we lead or the kaizen learning events. People love experimenting as a method of learning, so what I like to simply guide them through the self-discovery process instead of telling them what the process is. I enjoy immensely the experiential learning and the freedom I have in developing that capability and building on the training material coming from the Lean training academy.
How is the holiday season different than other times of the year?
Our holiday season starts around Thanksgiving and is our peak season. During Cyber Monday, for example, there were close to 200 orders per minute! The first three days of that week we averaged over 70,000 packages shipped per day. As Larry Reid, our plant director said, “this means we shipped more than Canada Post out of Windsor!”
This time of year it seems like everything is moving non-stop, and the level of energy and focus is extremely high. All the floodgates are open and you can feel the rush of the current. At other times of the year, it looks like many starts and stops happen, and people are moved around more, according to the variation of demand in the respective product family.
We also run enormous training activity this time of year. We brought in new temps for a 4-week effort, and we trained senior and skilled permanent TMs for new holiday roles.
The focus and dedication of the whole plant was unparalleled, and demonstrated by record setting production and long overtime hours. We ran 24/7 production in critical flows (versus 24/5 for the balance of the year). We even changed the weekend pattern, to be inline with the customer shopping patterns. (Saturday and Sunday after the American Thanksgiving for example, became workdays, as our plant took an early weekend.
Only when looking at all these efforts, and seeing how well everybody responded to rush, do you get a full perspective of the true magnitude of this holiday manufacturing season.
How does the whole team pitch in to help out during the rush?
We had a large amount of office staff (including directors) helping on the shop floor. The offices were practically empty.
This year we changed our approach. What’s new is the fact that we provided a formal on-the-job training for the office personnel, and then we scheduled time slots and specific jobs so that team members weren’t just popping into the the plant to ask for something to do. We also tried to cover two shifts, instead of just the day shift.
Come 10 a.m., the lunch break, you could see the hourly TMs going to lunch while the salary TMs would take their place and start working as if they’d been doing it for ages. It was quite a sight! They would work for two hours, allowing the teams to catch up with other tasks and not accumulate work-in-process that would block the arteries with unfinished products.
Also, as a fast response, the production coordinators or the supervisors would move some of us around to better respond to a slight blockage in the product flow. When you looked at the whole picture, it was remarkable.
What was your role in coordinating the support?
Last August I was asked to put together a plan for implementation of a training cell for limited Holiday Season roles. We were very detailed in our approach and that allowed us to harmonize the strategy and planning with the execution so we that we would be successful. It was a multi-tiered approach:
Based on discussions with our Operations team and our friends at Venlo, we developed a two-tier training package, one for the holiday trainers, based on the existing TWI (Training Within Industry) material, and the other one for the new employees, with emphasis on specific tasks that would be required of them, regardless of their assigned position.
We continued building the actual holiday training cell, consisting of modified workstations as close as possible to the real ones, with our engineering students. We identified holiday trainers and during the train-the-trainer week, we supported their development of training manuals and refined the instructions from the actual work cells, so that all shifts would be trained in the same way.
Through the excellent collaboration and effort of the temporary agency personnel, working together with our Labor Planners, we had over 280 temporary employees going through the training cell, over the 5 weeks before the holidays.
Working with Operations, we also scheduled training sessions for all the office personnel who volunteered two hours of their daily schedule to working in the plant. Each Value Stream Organization identified the positions and our colleagues went for specific training, committing to work in that capacity at the scheduled times. Almost 40 support personnel went through formal training.
During all this time, we held weekly meetings with all the shareholders (Operations, Labor Planning, Temp Agency, Analytics, and IT) to ensure alignment of all the work and we continued communication via emails and in person to eliminate any roadblocks and potential misunderstandings.
What makes working at Cimpress different – especially during the holiday season?
In all honesty, it’s the high quality of people around us. Wherever I look, I see people truly respecting and caring for each other, regardless of position within the company. This accompanied by the freedom of expression, the ability to pursue goals in creative ways. Work here feels less like work and more like a personal challenge, engaging people at a deeper level.
In terms of holiday season, I think it’s the high energy level, the sense of great teamwork. It looks to me as if we are something like individual threads and during the holiday season we all come together to form a beautiful tapestry, beyond departmental boundaries. Everybody has a gentle smile and is ready to help. It’s something I’ve never seen, not quite at this level.
Why do you enjoy being a part of fulfilling holiday orders?
It makes me feel connected to everybody else in the company and to the customer. I think of how many people participate in bringing a product to life and getting it into in the hands of the customer. I, too, was part of that effort and this time not just as the support group, but as a frontline worker.
I carried every product coming my way on the way to and from the bins and I took care to keep it neat and clean, just the way I would like others to treat my own things. The speed with which the orders were coming was so high everybody was in fluid motion, keeping the products moving.
In a way, the whole experience humbled me, and helped me understand the perspective of the frontline workers, together with their work and challenges. The experience raised the question for me: What can I do differently or better in my Lean specialist role to improve the way our team works, so that it’s easier for them to fulfill their roles to the best of their abilities?
Interested in joining our team in Windsor? View our open positions here.