Every chance he gets, Todd Duncan attends new employee orientations to talk to the latest Duncan Aviation team members. He impresses upon them the importance of maintaining open and honest communication at all levels.
I recently mentioned at new team member orientation that communication throughout Duncan Aviation is crucial. It’s vital to our remaining a company that maintains high safety standards for team members and customers alike and where customer satisfaction is paramount, and it’s also vital to remaining a cohesive company with one culture and a shared mission regardless of location.
When I first joined the Duncan Aviation Accessories, Avionics & Satellites team in the early '90s, the Satellite Avionics shops were not well integrated into the company. They were more a series of standalone shops sporting our logo. Although they shared our business values and ethics, support in terms of consistent pricing, policies, and technical assistance hadn’t been established.
That all changed when Aaron Hilkemann, Duncan Aviation President, made open communication a priority. Today, an integrated Duncan Aviation is something we are very proud of.
No matter if a customer interacts with an Engine Rapid Response team, a Satellite Avionics shop, a Regional Manager on a different continent, or a member of a team in Battle Creek, Michigan; Lincoln, Nebraska; or Provo, Utah; we are all one Duncan Aviation.
But open communication begins at home. One thing my dad, Robert Duncan (Chairman Emeritus), always said is ‘When a company takes care of its employees, those employees take care of the customers’. One of the best ways we can all take care of one another is to communicate.
By embracing open communication, we not only share information, we also give an important voice to team members to identify areas where we can make improvements. Without that, team members may feel powerless and voiceless, leading to frustration, dissatisfaction, and negativity.
Although we’ve always welcomed new ideas, it was a decade ago we took steps to improve how we collect and review those ideas submitted by team members on ways we can be better. Our Lincoln Business Process Manager, Erin Hart, and former Battle Creek Process Improvement Manager Ted Roethlisberger, formed the LEAN (Listen, Engage, Advance/iNnovate) team to build a culture of continuous improvement at Duncan Aviation. Everyone in the company now has access to a database of ideas other team members have submitted and are able to submit their own.
“We believe that the team members who do the work and interact with one another and with customers every single day are best positioned to tell us about challenges with their work processes or work environments and to develop ways to improve efficiencies throughout all areas,” says Erin.
We always want to keep the lines of communication open and available to all team members. Those who are working in shops or on the floor experience problems first hand. Again, rather than let those problems grow, we provide team members another way to be heard and problems to be resolved.
The ideas team members submit aren’t all about problems. Many team members have seen ways to save money or cut out unnecessary steps in a process.
To date nearly 100 team member suggestions have resulted in improved safety, process efficiencies, and cost savings at every Duncan Aviation facility. Another thing we are very proud of.