Manufacturing Company Transforms Workplace with FISH!

Published On: April 6, 2015Categories: Blog

Actuant Electrical, Lumberton, NC

blog-7Lumberton operation’s is a production facility that manufactures Acme Transformer™ brand transformers. Prior to 2009, before the recession hit our industry and our company hard, we had a thriving work culture built on pride and sweat, and sustained by a talented and committed workforce loyal to the brand and Acme operations. The recession forced restructuring of the company that left the Lumberton facility one third its former size in both product volume and number of employees. Most of the employees did not feel they knew who Acme Electric was anymore, or how that feeling of “family” had faded so quickly. Low morale ensued, negatively affecting attendance, quality, efficiency and on-time delivery.

In March of 2011, the leadership team was introduced to a new motivational philosophy called FISH!  Eight energized staff members armed with four practices fully engaged a simple plan; “educate the workforce” while capturing what makes up a fulfilling workplace, great service, and effective relationships.

 Examples of Acme “BE THERE”

  • Listen to one another’s ideas
  • Freely give opinions on how to create a more effective work area
  • Giving your co-workers a helping hand
  • Responding with an open mind to new ideas and situations

Examples of Acme “PLAY”

  • Bringing a playful, creative mindset into our work
  • Ice cream day for making our monthly goal
  • Dressing up with your favorite NFL or college dress (this generated excitement in the work place)
  • Wear your favorite hat (this involvement gave the personnel a sense of belonging)
  • Kick Off Event – Fun Day

Example of Acme “MAKE THEIR DAY”

  • Each employee welcomes one another with a smile and a pleasant greeting
  • Compliments and team work seem to be more prevalent
  • Lending a helping hand to your neighbor happens more often and is done with ease


  • Involvement in Lean Enterprise Across Disciplines events has increased
  • Involvement in workplace events has increased and people are more appreciative
  • Pleasant smiles show attitudes are grateful

We began to PLAY as a way to release tension. However, do not mistake play for unprofessionalism. Adopting a playful mindset allowed us to work more creatively and improve problem solving. In fact we now use the phrase “Let’s think FISH! for a moment” when we’re confronted with relationship issues. We use the language of FISH! to hold ourselves accountable to our commitments to each other. For example, when someone isn’t focused in a conversation we now ask, “Are you BEing THERE?”  An emphasis on “MAKE THEIR DAY” reminds us to show appreciation for extra effort and a job well done.  And finally “CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDES” help remind us that we can choose a more helpful and positive attitude when we get off course during the day.

Our monthly emphasis on one of the four practices has been the key to sustaining FISH! in our culture. Each month workforce team members are selected come up with an activity to remind us to keep The FISH! Philosophy at the forefront of our conversations, thoughts and actions. Recently, during a month when we were focusing on “BE THERE,” we organized a food drive for those less fortunate in Robeson County, giving us an opportunity to share an attitude of helping others in our community. Activities like ice cream socials, carnivals, and games of skill, have reinforced the foundation of FISH! and helped to build a spirit of camaraderie within our Plant. While these activities are vital, no less vital is living FISH! day to day, even moment to moment in our work, and acknowledging each other as we witness those around us living FISH! as a set of core values.

As simple and everyday as they may seem, the FISH! practices have guided Actuant Electrical, Lumberton Operations facility to rebuild a spirit of trust and conflict resolution among each other. The conflicts did not go away, but the way in which the conflicts where handled changed.

The four FISH! practices helped to dramatically improve core metrics that the Lumberton team focused on for Fiscal Year 2011, and brought about a culture shift of how the business is run and perceived. A greater willingness of employees to adopt changes that made us more efficient and successful was one of the most important benefits of bringing FISH! into our culture. Changes during 2011 include:

  • Adopting Day-by-Hour Charts; winding, green and final assembly lines in manufacturing cells.
  • Combining manufacturing equipment and personnel into one cell from two entirely different operations.
  • Adoption of Kanban driven Supermarket for the subassembly cell.
  • Equipment Setup reduction initiatives.
  • Reduction of lost non-replenished parts that had been produced for one time builds.
  • Self directed work team justified, developed, and hired full time material handlers.


The four FISH! practices have changed the DNA of Lumberton culture. Now a culture of higher morale and dedication aiding Lumberton Operations to make implementation faster and smoother, raising safety awareness, decreasing quality defects, increasing overall efficiency and productivity, and making on-time delivery achievable.


Actuant Electrical
Lumberton Operations Staff Members
4815 West 5th Street
Lumberton, NC 28358

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