You work at a busy molding company. How do you keep track of all the loose ends and deadline dates for team members on projects?
At Bemis Manufacturing Co., they use something called the “playbook management system” to keep everybody on the same page.
Jon Bemis and Gary Vande Berg explained the playbook during a presentation at the Plastics News Executive Forum, held Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 in Tampa. The playbook helps Bemis keep track of day-to-day issues — everything from molding jobs to quality improvement to reducing scrap to machine procurement.
The Sheboygan Falls, Wis.-based Bemis employs 1,800 worldwide, and runs 140 injection molding machines and 20 extrusion lines. Vande Berg, vice president of engineering, said the company has a thousand customers and 150 active projects.
“Communications and information management is critical for our survival,” Vande Berg said.
Bemis, manager of management systems, said the idea of a central task management tool was first developed in 1992. It started with ink-on-paper, then progressed to the computer. Last year the playbook moved to the LANSA software platform.
Bemis explained how it worked before 1992. His father, CEO Peter Bemis, called it the “magic folder” method.
Jon Bemis said: “You came to a meeting. Everybody would write down their tasks in the “magic folder.” They'd leave the meeting. They'd close up the folder. And Peter Bemis became convinced that the act of closing up that folder erased the tasks on it like an Etch A Sketch.”
The playbook is a transparent, standardized way to link everybody on a team assigned to that job.
“The goal of this system was to really improve the effectiveness of teams, so you avoided that ‘magic folder' syndrome,” Jon Bemis said. “You had one central plan for the tasks.”
The system includes specific tasks and the due date. Team members can access the playbook from any computer, and refer to it during meetings. It lists the leader of each action item. “You can't hide,” he said.
Customers can access their playbooks through a secure Internet connection.
The playbook also plays a key role in Bemis Manufacturing's employee development team. Playbook coordinator positions are filled by shop-floor employees who try for a so-called “term position,” which is three years in a management position.
Bemis said the term positions also help the company scale up its management when business grows, then scale back down in a slowdown without laying people off, since they can go back to their factory production jobs.
After the Executive Forum, Bemis said the company is exploring licensing the playbook system to other processors. The company bought a commercial database and did in-house design of the playbook application.