Putting in a single day on the shop floor to gain employee goodwill may backfire and bring complaints of patronizing behavior. Paul Huber, president and CEO of Seco-Warwick Corp., a manufacturer with 175 employees in Meadville, Pa., was committed to really learning the factory operations, so the floor supervisor assigned him different jobs for one day a month for a year.

When he worked as a wire welder, Huber decided the make-do machines were lacking and purchased new ones. Laying brick one day convinced him that using knee pads would be much easier than moving around pads on the floor. And after retracing his steps as an assembly worker, he improved material flow efficiency.

"I gained a much better appreciation of the company's problems," says Huber, who adds that floor employees were impressed with the quick turnaround on improvements. Now the vice-president of manufacturing, Clifford Lohr, has taken over spending one day a month on the floor.

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