As Distinction Doors introduces six new paint colours, GGP meets paint department manager, Catherine Barker to find out about her role and the challenge of changing the colour palette.

“Typically, I’m up at around 5.30am and I log-on to our system shortly after,” says Cath, speaking from her office overlooking the production facility in Barnsley. “I sit and study the live data with a cup of coffee before answering any queries; I like to help even when I’m not in the building. But to be honest, I do it because I like to be aware of what’s going on. I don’t want to walk in not knowing where we are.”

And Cath does this throughout the week, regardless of which shift pattern she is mirroring.

“My rota is very fluid. I manage all three shifts and it’s important that they all see me, regularly. I tend to work 10-6 so I can see as many people as possible, but even then, I’m up at half-past five and logging on!”

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There’s no denying Cath’s dedication to the role and her team. This is perhaps born in part from her inexperience in the production sector. “Previously, I worked for 15 years in pharmaceuticals, in ops. I was more office-based, dealing with people and data. I never realised a production environment could be quite so different.”

But she is learning every day. “I’m a firm believer that we must adapt and change, else we stagnate. I now know an awful lot more than on day one, put it that way.”

One of Cath’s techniques for improving her composite door and production knowledge while also earning the trust of her team, is to tap into the ideas and solutions of the operatives. “I call them my ‘local experts’. They have so much experience as many of them have been with the company a long time. Their input can be invaluable.”

And Cath likes to be hands-on. “I’m not a clean manager! My trousers are usually covered in paint, dust and muck. When I can, I get involved with prepping the doors and I think I’ve earned a bit of respect from that.”

Communication and Engagement

Staff culture and morale are important to Cath. Indeed, Distinction Doors is a ‘people’ company – keen to champion individuals and teamwork, and reward achievements.

“I have worked very hard with my team [circa. 40 plus four team leaders] to improve engagement. Good communication is key. I have a vision of where I want this department to be, and I need their buy-in.” Cath began by developing and empowering her team leaders.

“We have regular 121s right across the business, so I began by asking my team leaders where they needed my help. Since then, I have given structure to their day and created team leader directives.” This support is already being rewarded as Cath entrusts the team leaders with the daily quality and production meetings. “There can be up to eight people in a typical quality meeting, and my team now have the confidence and skill to lead these. I stay in the background, but they know I’m there if they need me.”

Using Cath’s 121 template, the team leaders regularly engage with the operatives on personal and professional matters. “Part of my role is to protect and enhance the health, safety and well-being of my team. That doesn’t just mean checking that everyone is happy in their job. We must ask if they’re ok and if everything is alright at home.”

Colour Change Challenge

The recent colour change presented a fresh challenge for the paint department. “It was meticulously planned, and we kept the paint operatives in the loop from day one,” continues, Cath. “We did not stop production and it was critical that there was no impact.

“The issue wasn’t the introduction of the new colours but the archiving of the six we were replacing. We had to ensure that these colours were removed 100% from production but still accessible for any NCRs in the coming weeks whist managing the risk of operative error (selecting the incorrect paint colour).”

Paint Road Map

After standardising and improving the paint facility, Cath’s next project is to deliver on her six-month paint road map. “I have set high but achievable goals, including OTIF and health & safety rates. The aim is to further advance departmental quality through efficiency and the training and development of all operatives.”

Our half-an-hour chat has flown by. We leave Cath to her 10AM daily production meeting, in no doubt that with such verve and conviction, her department will go from strength to strength.  It must be an exciting time to be a Distinction Doors prep customer!