When Five Workers Run a Factory

When Five Workers Run a Factory

Yes, five workers are running a factory! And the sales turnover runs in a few crores!!

This discovery shocked me. I asked Mr. Hemant Mondkar who the factory manager was of the Thane factory. Mr. Hemant Mondkar is an IITian who runs his enterprise, HyTech Engineers Ltd. in a way which is both different and extra-ordinary. Instead of answering my question directly, he asked his office assistant to ‘get those five men’ to his office.

Four came, one was absent they said. Mondkar asked them to explain what work they did. One of them explained that five of them together ran the Thane factory which employed about 80 persons!

I could not believe and that I was surprised is a gross understatement! I mean factories are run by engineers and MBAs or by Engineer-MBAs. But a factory run by five workers?

I decided to meet the five men, and I spoke to them at length. I recorded the stories of two of them.

Pradeep Falke joined HyTech Engineers Ltd 25 years ago as a helper. He is educated up to 10th standard. Pradeep worked as a helper in the initial days, and even carried heavy load to the factory (it was situated at a different location then) on the second floor. He later worked on different machines. A point came when the company decided, sometime in 2018, not to engage a manager to run the factory. They in turn trained five workers, including Pradeep, to plan production.

Those five employees, Pradeep, Shashikant, Pandhari, Sachin, and Sumit decide on the production plan, they decide what to make in the factory and what is to be outsourced.

They meet every Saturday and work out a ‘rolling plan’ for the coming weeks! And they plan the work right up to the dispatch stage, also deciding on the sanctioning of leave and related administrative matters. This quintet has been well trained to manage cost, they understand how to remove ‘non-value adding activities’ and speak the language of ‘Lean manufacturing.’ They are aware of the sales their factory achieves and also the profits it makes.

This group of five workers have made this factory more profitable than it was earlier. They acknowledge the role training has played in their success.

Shashikant who joined this company as a helper speaks of arduous work he did in his job before joining HyTech Engineers. He studied up to 12th standard before coming to Thane seeking a factory job, and has grown with the HyTech Engineers Ltd. He decides how to outsource the production and prepares materials plan.

They are deeply involved in their work, often working late hours, and have lent a helping hand to set up production facilities at other locations as well as train the workers there!

What does this situation tell us? The human potential for learning is immense but we tend to get misguided by the ‘higher’ educational qualifications, as well as the ability to speak English. It requires openness on the part of the entrepreneur to share information with all employees, and to establish the connect with the customer at the lowest possible level of the organization.

(Inverted Leadership Pyramid)

But what we call the lowest level of the organization is what they consider the highest level! That’s because they practice ‘Inverted Leadership Pyramid’ empowering the frontline workers, and the managers acting as ‘Coach.’ This is easy said than done. The ‘power and control’ habits of managerial staff are difficult to remove, and instead get them to adopt ‘monitor and support’ stance.

Wikipedia tells us that “The term “invert the pyramid” is attributed to Jan Carlzon, who transformed SAS airlines by giving front line employees authority to make decisions on the spot. The creation of the reverse hierarchy has been attributed to the Nordstrom retail organization. Other notable adopters of this structure include the United Parcel Service and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.”

How has the work affected their personal life? Shashikant says that his wife has asked him, in lighter vein, to move to the factory and stay over there. But the smile and cheerfulness of the quintet gives away their secret – that they are enjoying their meaningful jobs.

Is this replicable? Yes, of course, it is, but it requires managers to ‘own’ the work place. And they must create it as a High-Touch organization, not just a High-Tech one. That’s the message of this true story of five workers running a factory.

Disclosure: This blogger is an independent director in HyTech Engineers Ltd. Presented here are hard facts, and these are verifiable!

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”