Some of the most important people in our organization are the 50 Line Leads that work on the production lines here in Dunlap, TN. The Line Leads are typically responsible for the activity on a set of machines and are the first level of leadership, with between two and four people reporting to them. Their main responsibilities are workspace and employee safety, quality assurance, the on-time delivery of parts produced by their line and ensuring costs/budgets are adhered to.
The goal is high performance
Our aim is to create high performance work teams on the factory floor. To achieve this, we knew we had to empower the Line Leads. They need to have the confidence to make the right decisions and know that they will be supported by the leadership team. We have placed a great deal of responsibility on our Line Leads and, as a leadership team, we felt it necessary to provide them with the right skills to do their work.
My colleague Andre Nelson, Production Zone Manager, came up with a great idea to engage and empower our Line Leads. He developed a training program consisting of 12, one-hour modules which covered subjects such as ‘Building and Maintaining Trust’, ‘Effective Communication’ and ‘Conflict Resolution’. Although the training sessions were very successful, we felt there was something missing.
Engagement away from the production line
At the suggestion of Tracy Middleton, Human Resource Business Partner and Andre, we decided to take our training to the next level by taking our Line Leads off-site and immersing them in a leadership summit. We felt like this was an ideal way to promote both engagement and empowerment to this critical team of leaders. Led by Tracy and Andre, the MHUS-Dunlap team initiated the first ever Line Lead Summit in July this year which focused on ‘Servanthood through Leadership, Ownership through Engagement, Excellence through Empowerment’.
We wanted to take our Line Leads out of the work environment, so we secured a neutral site, the Tennessee National Guard Armory in Dunlap, and decorated the venue in a suitably military theme. The Line Leads were given preparation work to get them thinking about leadership. To open the summit, MANN+HUMMEL USA’s Vice President Operations US OE, Jack Endres, presented MANN+HUMMEL’s Global 2026 Vision.
The leadership team, including me, Dirk Bayliss, Bryan Stalker, and Andre, then delivered a series of interactive presentations to the Line Leads covering servant leadership, how to take responsibility for their actions (both positive and negative), and finally how decentralized command can immediately have a positive impact on their personal growth and the company’s performance. After the presentations, the Line Leads formed small groups to discuss their personal leadership impact in a 30-minute workshop. To conclude the workshop, a Line Lead from each small group was nominated to give a short presentation about their individual impact on our company’s engagement and empowerment!
Improving productivity across the board
I am immensely proud of the accomplishments of our Line Leads. The focus on empowerment is already leading to improvements in production and is helping us to create high performance work teams. The MANN+HUMMEL Dunlap leadership team has seen a decline in the number of problems that have been escalated up to us and improved feedback from the Line Leads. As a result, we can now spend more time developing even better processes and production improvements as our Line Leads propel our plant forward with this new-found momentum. A win for everyone.