Zonnehoeve. A place where ‘giving people opportunities’ is put in the centre

2017 – Zonnehoeve Productions is a tailor made company in Flanders, active in packaging and woodworking; it is a company in the ‘social economy’. They provide workplaces also for ‘target group employees’, which are directly managed and supported by supervisors (‘Monitoren’). The Zonnehoeve, employs 188 men and women, of which 143 are ‘target group employees’.
In 2015, an ESF project ‘Organising differently’ was carried out at this company. This project is evaluated in an article in the Member-magazine of Flandres Synergy: ‘Inspireert’, number 10, June 2017. Below you will find a summary of this article.

The Workplace Innovation
The company had three departments: the Packaging department, the Bed department (woodworking) and the Enclave department. From the last mentioned department, people were detached to third parties on a daily basis. There was a strong hierarchical structure. After a participative process analysis and various courses, the structure has been revised. Within a Division of Packaging and Enclaves on the one hand and a Beds department on the other hand, fixed teams are formed that must be self-managing in 2018. The layout of the production halls has been adapted to the new situation. More tasks and competencies were laid at the shopfloor. The Production managers now carry out many more commercial tasks and deal with matters previously dealt with by the Executives. The production teams are run by a team of Supervisors that deals with planning, leave plans, coaching teamwork, and teaching new tasks. In the past they use to jump into production where problems arose.

An important driver for the project was the need to respond better and more agile to the market demand that is changing from large to small series and customization.
But there were also internal issues that asked for solution. The hierarchical structure mentioned above meant that people from the floor consulted the Executives even for small decisions. The Monitors and the staff were trouble shooting constantly due to lack of streamline in production and had to work overtime to do their own work. They were also frustrated and stressed and that influenced the target group employees.

The initiative to ‘Organizing differently’ came from the management but in the elaboration and implementation, Monitors and supporting people participated and still participate. At the start a 10-day internal training was given to the first-line managers, the Monitoren. These included, for example, teamwork and leadership, lean thinking, the 5S-approach and workplace organization. Then a Steering Committee started a process analysis. This Steering Committee was composed of Management, Heads Support Services, Production Leaders and Representatives of the Supervisors. The process analysis revealed the production flows within which new permanent teams could be formed. Working groups were formed for various bottlenecks (for example, the Warehousing Workgroup).
The teams were gradually started; they began to get together every day, a teamboard to share information was installed and the Supervisors allocated the tasks to the target-group-employees to the principle that “everyone should do what he or she can do best". The Supervisors are slowly learning not to solve the problems for the employees, but to let them do that themselves.

At the moment of the interviews held for this article, the Zonnehoeve is working on the new ways of organising for a year and a half. The transition went faster than the Director had expected.
The Supervisors are less stressed and the profitability has risen sharply. The people – including the target group employees – bear more responsibility and feel good.

Lessons learned
A director who believes in the change is very beneficial.
A gradual and participatory approach has worked very well here.

Moerenhout, Ann. ‘Zonnehoeve anders. Een plek waar ‘mensen kansen geven’ centraal staat.’ In: Flandres Synergy member-magazine: Inspireert, number 10, juni 2017.  Goede Praktijken. pp. 8 – 12.
This article (in Dutch) is attached.