Drive Continuous Improvement with Employee Suggestion Schemes

Suggestion scheme
Do employee suggestion schemes offer an additional way to engage with staff and involve them with the continuous improvement process, or are they simply just another initiative that becomes nothing more than a passing fad?

Suggestion Schemes, do they work?

Well, the general consensus is that suggestion schemes, like the Idhammar Suggestion Scheme, are a useful tool that, when used in conjunction with an OEE measurement system, generates substantial savings. Research across 120 UK organisations by the Institute of Work Psychology at Sheffield University found that staff suggestion schemes do have an impact on employee creativity and involvement.

General Motors, for instance, accumulated 44,000 worker suggestions in just one quarter, and one plant saved $900K using the scheme. The American multinational found that employee suggestions had been effective in reducing the time it takes to assemble a vehicle by 15%.

What are the drawbacks?

  • Like most initiatives, a staff suggestion scheme in isolation will not change the culture of an organisation without commitment from everyone
  • Employees may use the scheme to let off steam, rather than make useful suggestions to improve plant processes
  • A lack of transparency, whereby the progress of ideas becomes invisible, will lead workers to feel that they are not being kept in the loop. This will have an adverse effect on motivation
  • Failing to provide employees with feedback of their ideas will remove the incentive to make further suggestions.

Realising the importance of and addressing these pitfalls will provide the scheme with a high chance of success, and keep workers motivated so that the continuous improvement process is maintained.

A swift response to suggestions, with some form of reward or recognition, is likely to encourage creative behaviour and increase willingness to share ideas.

Do on-line suggestion schemes have a higher chance of success?

Online, browser-based schemes, compared to paper-based suggestions, tend to create a more efficient process, as well as saving space and encouraging more employees to take part. This, in turn, will provide a higher chance of success.

It is important to ask your staff for their preferred choice of reward for offering an idea, such as vouchers, time off, meals out or even company shares, and be prepared to offer several different incentives for a good idea.

A Siemens plant in Congleton, which has generated savings of almost £1m from the scheme in a year, found that recognition on acceptance is a better incentive than larger amounts after the idea has been implemented.

Getting started with your own suggestion scheme

Many employees will already have some ideas and will be keen to put them forward once the suggestion scheme is in place. So here are some examples of how to make your on-line based suggestion scheme a simple six step process:

  • Where do you work (function)
  • How can we contact you?
  • Your idea?
  • What problem will your idea resolve?
  • How does it resolve the problem?
  • What benefits do you envisage?

A real benefit of the scheme is that it uses the power of the computer, ensuring that feedback is appropriate, timely and automated, as well as costing very little to run. Therefore, a return on investment in the region of three-to-one is achievable.

Remember, the suggestion scheme is not an isolated element; it is part of the continuous improvement toolkit and works in parallel with OEE measurement systems. When the CI technician identifies a significant loss in the OEE system, and an operator suggests a way to reduce or prevent the loss, everyone wins.

For more information on suggestion schemes and your business, or to arrange a free Idhammar OEE demo, contact us today.