A little look at Ricoh Products Ltd by Rob Bland

The Ricoh Products Limited (RPL) Together Suggestion Scheme is not like most traditional employee suggestion programmes.

It is based on the premise that people really want to improve their work environment and contributions from every employee provide long term continuous improvement.

RPL understands that the employees doing the work are the experts when it comes to improving their process. Suggestions from employees ultimately contribute to the organisation’s profit but more importantly they give a sense of ownership with employees having some control over their destiny.

Also these feelings of ownership and control lead to greater overall employee satisfaction and engagement. The RPL Together Suggestion Scheme is not all about the money saved but aimed more at involving everyone in achieving the long term business objectives.

The key element of the scheme is that it is simple in all aspects from submitting an improvement idea through evaluation to implementation. The responsibility for implementing the ideas, rewarding and recognising the improvement being held at the lowest possible level in the organisation. In this way RPL is able to gain a reasonable number of submissions (2.1 ideas per employee in 2008/2009), high acceptance and implementation rate (77% in 2008/2009).

Every employee in RPL can submit a suggestion, although reward payments for certain management and specialist staff is limited to suggestions outside their scope of responsibility. Suggestions may be submitted by individuals or groups. The process is very simple and available electronically or in paper form.

A one page form is employed to capture all aspects of the improvement idea. A brief explanation of the current situation or problem together with the proposed improvement idea is included. The suggestor is responsible for determining which areas they think would be impacted by their idea. These include not only tangible cost saving but equally cover intangible benefits like productivity, safety, environment and quality improvement. Employees submit their forms to their team leader or scheme representative who will review it and ensure that the idea is understood and that any additional information is included on the form.

The team leader or scheme representative plays a key role in the scheme process. In most cases (80%) the team leader can approve, implement, recognise and reward all suggestions from the team using the RPL “Fast Track” process.

The team leader evaluates & approves all suggestions using a scoring matrix, when a suggestion scores high, the form is automatically processed along the RPL “Specialist Track” where further specialist evaluation is carried out and additional awards are made through an awards evaluation panel. The best ideas are further recognised and rewarded through monthly and annual awards from the RPL Top management.

In summary the RPL Together Suggestion Scheme is designed to be simple, intended for all employees to use, designed to remove barriers common to many suggestion schemes, most of all it creates a mind set that everyone contributes to the overall success and growth of the organisation by providing their ideas. Despite this focus on encouraging the small ideas, the RPL suggestion scheme has provided some significant payback and return on investment.

Although, never the key driver for the scheme, the scheme brought in a profit of over £147,000 to the organisation during 2008/2009.

Rob Bland – Continuous Improvement Manager


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