When Excellence Is Not Enough

I frequently have the pleasure of serving as an assessor for the AME Excellence Awards. A few short years ago I was on the team that examined the MillerCoors facility in Eden, NC. It was one of the best operations I have seen. The culture was amazing, safety truly was the top priority, commitment to the environment was front and center, and both continuous and step function improvements were myriad. Recommending them for the AME Excellence Award was easy and they received it in 2013.

Unfortunately, MillerCoors recently shut down that plant, moving its operations to other facilities across the country. Significant production is being moved to a newer facility about 200 miles away.

The executive team and employees of the Eden facility did everything right. They won Brewery of the Year three straight years. But it wasn’t enough.

Or was it?

As we enjoy the availability of craft beers throughout the country, we are choosing not to drink the traditional major brands. MillerCoors was impacted by that, as is every other major brewer. In a capital intensive industry, the decision to build or shut down a facility is a difficult one. Production facilities that are designed for large batches are not easily modified to effectively make small ones. Some operation had to be eliminated. Distribution logistics, flexibility to support the new demand patterns, and age of infrastructure all played a role.

So why aim for excellence if you risk losing your job anyway?

We all are at risk of losing our jobs all the time. Don’t let fear drive behavior. The folks at Eden built an amazing culture, developed and lived in excellence every day, and demonstrated what they are capable of.

Some people don’t improve their house unless they believe the investment will pay for itself when they decide to sell. I choose to make improvements to enhance the quality of our lives while we live here. The same should be true for any manufacturing company. Work your butt off to be competitive now and in the future, but also to build a great work-life in the here and now.

Make it hard for someone to choose not to do business with you, and make it easy to come to work and deliver amazing results. Excellence itself is enough to do that.

As published in AME’s Target Online