“We’re almost looking at it as a puzzle; different pieces of the puzzle work for different operators,” he explains. “We’ve got to make sure that we get all the pieces that we can kind of build puzzle A for this operator and puzzle B for that operator from a service offering and a support offering.”
A Transformation at New Flyer
New Flyer is in the middle of a cultural and physical transformation, investing in the facility and the way they build buses.
“When we look at our safety metrics over the last 10 years, it’s one-tenth of the safety incidence we had 10 years ago,” Soubry says. “The number of incidence, the number of grievances we get from our union partners is down.”
The factories don’t have warehouses anymore. Instead of parts coming in on trucks from a couple hundred vendors and being put in a warehouse, they come straight in to staging areas on the shop floor. Walking through the St. Cloud facility it’s clean and open and there are places clearly labeled for each part, each piece of equipment needed at each point along the manufacturing process. When you go out back, There are leftover shelves, benches cabinets, etc., that had been on the shop floor.
“The quality of the work environment in terms of, I walk in and it’s bright, it’s safe and it’s clean and everything’s organized,” Soubry states. “It has to help improve motivation when that person goes and installs something on that bus.
“Sure we’re growing our business, but that’s a combination of trying to get efficiency out of same cost base to stay cost-competitive,” he says. “Also, continuing to add fresh ideas, new approaches to young people to balance our experience in the work force.”
Soubry relays a sporting analogy, “It’s not like we don’t want to win one championship. We want to win it every bloody year and to do so, it’s a process.
“If we stop and just look insular, we’re not going to have our head up looking above, how to train, how to treat people, how to pay, provide growth or career opportunities.”
With today’s economy, he says there aren’t a lot of people with their head up, looking outside the company, so their focus has been engagement and job satisfaction. “And honestly, there are lots of places in New Flyer where we need to continue to work on that.”
One of those areas was that there wasn’t a consistent methodology of everyone being trained to the same standard, whether looking at the training of technicians, engineers, or leadership positions.
The New Flyer Institute came out of that. “We do a lot of internal training and a lot of external training and so now, being able to add a little formality to that and structure to it so that when somebody gets to the line of New Flyer, somebody gets into a leadership position, or we teach a customer, we’ve got consistency around that rather than just a bunch of disparate training,” he says.
Other improvements include daily stand-up meetings, visual control systems and metrics, social committees and the recent APTA AdWheel award winner, its intranet system.
“Making it sustainable is about, it’s not a person that does a job, but a system that’s working together,” Soubry says. “It’s a never-ending journey, but it delivers better buses and it makes us more money.
“Take that sort of an environment, from an employee that feels, ‘I just build buses.’ No you don’t, you’re a really important part of this team. Whether it’s baseball, softball, the company picnic, whatever, so that when you go home, you’re with your family saying, ‘I work at New Flyer.’
“When your kid goes to school, they’re saying, ‘My mom or dad works at New Flyer,’ it’s very different than, ‘My mom or dad has a job.’