As a family we do not use the Ration Card much. So, we did not care to apply for it and take it. But a few months back when we decided to take the Ration card as it can be a good address proof. My memories of taking Ration card earlier many years back are not very good. We had to go through a long procedure for it and deal with many Tables in the Food and Civil Supplies department.
With all these bad memories, I set out to visit the Government Department in Coimbatore (where I live). When I reached the office, I went to the first Babu (or Samy in Coimbatore) and enquired about the procedure for Ration Card application. He looked at me funnily and told me that there was no need for me to come to the office. He said ‘I cannot do much to help you. You have to apply online’. He zipped out his Smart phone and searched for ‘How to apply for Ration card in Tamilnadu’. Then he showed me the following screen.
I felt very archaic and ignorant. He told me to call him if I get stuck with the technology! That is a definite new for me about a Government employee!
I came home and completed the Online application procedure. Within about 4-5 weeks the Ration card (Smart card) came home! Now this was a wonderful experience!! No running around the Government offices, no dealing with the ‘hungry’ Babus/Samys. You just deal everything online. Government seems to be progressing in the Digitalization agenda?
Come to think of it, there are many more facilities all of us have been enjoying. Let us talk about a few.
IRCTC: Indian Railway website which all of us use to book the Railway tickets. I know this had been around for years! But it has taken away a huge burden off our shoulders. I still remember the hours that I used to spend in the Que in the Railway stations as and when we decide to travel somewhere. We would have got used to the online booking comfort. But it saved hours for Millions of Railway travelers.
Now you can not only book tickets online, but order food from important stations on the way to your destination. Food will be delivered from those Restaurants at your Seat!
Railways made some progress. Isn’t it?
Online Tax payments: All the online Tax payments that we are doing now involved a few years back standing in the Bank, filling up challan to pay the Taxes.
You can apply for your Water connection online whether you are individual or a Company.
If you are going on a Holiday, you can book the Government Accommodations online.
Your Children can even read their Textbooks for free online!
There are more than 100 services that are listed on the Tamilnadu Government website. Each of these links actually lead to more than one service.
Government is driving Digitalization aggressively for the past decade. It is only gathering more speed now. I am sure all of you know many more examples of wonderful services that are helping the public at large.
We are also witnessing a big change in our daily lives.
Uber and Ola have revolutionized the way we look at transportation. There are many families that are relooking at the need for a second / third car in the family.
Swiggy, Zomato and others have revolutionized the way we dine. There are many more families that are depending on outside food than ever.
Google maps have revolutionized the way we go around and find places.
As we speak hundreds of Apps are changing the way all of us exercise, how we communicate with others and so on.
We are truly living in a world that is FAST changing.
How is Digitalization in your Company?
Now if we look at the extent of Digitalization in Indian Manufacturing Companies, do we see a similar drastic change happening?
May be a handful of companies have made good progress in terms of using the Technology.
But largely my observation is that Indian Manufacturing Companies seem to be too slow in adapting the Technology. Government (Both Central and State) are way ahead of the Industry. We keep saying that Government is too slow, and Ministers are ignorant of Technology and everything else! But they seem to be doing much better!!
Many companies are still dealing with age old ERPs. Most of them would not be using the features of these old ERPs itself properly. Most of the controls in the ERPs are bypassed.
Some Companies would have tried implementing an SAP in their company. But 90% of these companies have made a mess of implementing the SAP and using it very sub optimally.
Most of the Companies do not have any other software beyond the SAP / ERP. Production planning may be done manually if it is done!
Most of the Information is generated only in Excel sheets and Power points.
The Machines that have PLCs with lot of capabilities are lying unutilized.
Usage of IT
Information Technology can be used by Companies at three levels.
01. Using IT to handle routine: Basic ERP System: Every company needs to use the ERP effectively. As all of us know there are several modules that can be used to improve efficiency in the organization. The implementation of an ERP should not be treated as just a Software implementation. It is much bigger than that. It is a re-engineering of the routine in the Company. It should be treated as such and a Company should have clear number goal about what needs to improve after the Implementation of the ERP.
With the implementation of the ERP system, a Company should have a good process in:
- Budgetary Control
- Annual Budgeting
- Production Planning
- Supplier Portal
- Dealer Portal
- Sales order processing
- Quality System
And so on.
The Routine work in the Company should be controlled by the ERP and this should
Help the Company to improve its’ efficiency of doing this routine.
I would say a company has to aim at improving the White-Collar Productivity by
At least 50% after implementing the ERP. Otherwise you are not using it effectively.
If an ERP implementation is achieving this objective, I would say you are using the
ERP reasonably well. Otherwise, why bother to spend the money?
02. Using IT to improve efficiency: Companies can do very well to use several tools that are available today to improve the efficiency in the work.
They can use CRM (Customer relationship management) software to improve the efficiency of their Sales force. Many companies keep restarting the efforts of Marketing whenever a senior person leaves. There is hardly any continuity.
For identifying the Product / Parts / Raw material they can use Barcodes. Again, a small percentage of companies are using. But the scope for using Barcodes across the industry is huge! The technology has advanced beyond Barcodes and some companies are talking about using RFID technology.
Companies can use E-Learning to train their employees much more effectively and repetitively. They can cut their Costs also in a big way.
Companies can use Problem Solving software to control the Problem solving and record the Knowledge that is generated.
Companies can use Software in New Product Development to design the Product and improve the consistency and speed of Design.
IT solutions can be used in many areas and generate more efficiency. Each application should have a Target of improving the efficiency and it should deliver a measurable result to the Company.
03. Using IT to build a Competitive edge: IT is being used to build Competitive edge to the Company. Today there are many online trade apps. IT is playing a huge role in these companies. It is not just an enabler of Business. IT is the Business!
You can look for using IoT, Ind 4.0 elements to give higher value to the Customer.
Today many Capital equipment Companies are looking to use GPS tracking to give a higher value to the Customer in terms of knowing about the usage of the Capital equipment, knowing about the maintenance schedule of the Equipment and so on.
Logistics companies are getting hugely benefitted with the Online tracking of their vehicles. They are able to keep track of the ‘Most economic route’, ‘Speed of the vehicle’ , ‘Mileage of the vehicle’ and so on using the online Apps that are available.
Every company has to find their own mix of solutions that will give them a Competitive edge over their Competitor.
Companies have to start using Information Technology, Ind 4.0 etc and start re-engineering their Businesses!
Governments are doing a decent job in promoting this agenda!
Indian Manufacturing has a lot to catch up!!
Many of these companies can stop calling the Government inefficient and start improving!
Every Manufacturing Company is required to deliver good results every Quarter. Without this, the Bankers will not have confidence in the Company’s performance. In today’s Economic situation as everyone would have experienced, the Bankers are very careful in lending money. While Big Scams may happen, the Ordinary company is struggling to get their Discounting Limits expanded when there is genuinely a Turnover increase! The Ordinary Banking employee seem to have become very cautious! The Pressure is not only from the Bankers, the Investors also are watching the Companies much more carefully. No one wants to put their money in a Company that may not be looking strong.
Companies need to manage their Operations very closely to ensure they get maximum out of the Resources that they are investing.
While this is the situation of rising expectation and rising Caution on the part of Bankers, Investors regarding money and Investment, the Companies do not seem to be still managing their Profits closely.
There is always a big gap between the Seriousness with which the Board looks at the P&L Statement and how the rest of the Company looks at the Quarterly / Monthly P&L Statements. Many Companies may not be still having the Monthly P&L. Even in Companies where the Monthly P&L is prepared, Employees in these companies may not have any idea about the Profit of the Company or how the Financial situation of the Company is. Traditionally a good proportion of Indian Companies do not share the P&L with employees.
This gap between the Board of Directors and the rest of the Company is not good in following ways:
- Employees, including Senior Employees simply do not know the Financial situation of the Company.
- Operations Head may not know the effect of the Operational inefficiency on the P&L.
- Sales team may not know the effect of their Receivables Collection on the Working Capital.
- Engineering Team may not know the effect of their Capital Investments on the Debt situation of the Company and how it is affecting the Profit.
- Due to this ignorance, the Operational team may want more investment, not putting in efforts to improve the efficiency fast enough.
- While the Board of Directors are worried about the Financial situation of the Company, there is no guarantee that the actions are happening on the ground to address this situation.
- Actually, the Operational team may be pulling in the opposite direction. An Operations Head may be arguing for higher investment, he may not be focusing on the reduction of Raw Material Cost as he may see some other priority.
- A Sales head may be arguing for giving higher Credit days to the Customers.
- A Purchase head may not see the need to go for serious Cost reduction as he is busy in implementing an ERP or busy with some other priority.
This can turn the situation in to a quite serious one as the Company is in trouble. But not able to respond with agility! This is where the Companies will start going deeper into inefficiency and Losses.
Let us look at a few Best Practices with which a Company can set a System for Agile Financial Performance Management in the Company.
01. Educate the Team starting with Senior Team: My experience is that even Senior People at Functional Head level too may not be knowing how to read a P&L, Balance Sheet. They may not know how to link the Activities that they are involved into the P&L. A Sales Head may not be able to link the delay in getting Price increase from Customers (Post Raw material Price increases) to the Profit of the Company.
The Education should not be just on the General Concepts of Finance, P&L and Balance Sheet.
Every Company should identify the Critical Activities that are driving the Cost In the Company and highlight it to the Team.
Eg. A New Product Process may be ending up in higher Raw Material Cost for the New Products. This may be okay for the initial period when the volumes are low. But in many Companies, this higher price for low volumes will continue even when the Prices go up. This process may be flagged.
02. Create Focus on the Critical Processes: Every Company needs to create focus on a few major Processes in the Company that are important in determining the Profit of the Company. Some examples are as follows:
a. Sales and Production: I have seen many Companies who simply keep losing a lot of opportunities in terms of boosting their Top line. The Production team should always be at least 20% ahead of the Sales team in terms of Capacity to produce (Not just Production capacity, the ability of the Production team to hit higher Production after tackling all their Losses). If they are not ahead of the Sales team, then the Company would be losing Growth opportunities. I know quite a few companies who are losing the Top line as they are living with some problems for a long time.
b. Cost of Poor Quality: Production / Quality Teams do not realise that the Cost of Poor Quality straight away hit the P&L. The Customers returns may be high, the Export Customers may be debiting Penal charges for bad Quality, the Dispatches may be going by Premium freight as the Lot was rejected. The focus on these costs has to be sharp.
c. Premium Freight: Many Companies incur a lot of wastage in this area. If the Production is not efficient, then the Company may be spending a lot on Premium freight for dispatches. If the Sales forecasting Is not okay, the Company may spend a lot on Premium freight for getting Raw material and Parts into the Company.
d. Manpower Cost and Productivity: The recruitment of Staff has come under a lot of focus and the Indian Companies have definitely reduced the recruitment in the past few years. But still the recruitment of Blue-collar Workforce is happening without good control in many Companies. There are huge opportunities in improving Blue Collar and White-collar Productivity in Indian Manufacturing Companies. We are sitting on huge opportunity in this area.
e. Investment: The Operations teams and Engineering Teams still do not have full understanding of how the investment that they recommend is affecting the Company’s financial situation. We are again sitting on huge opportunities in improving Capital Investment Productivity.
f. Receivables: Indian Customers generally do not pay unless rigorous follow up is there from the Supplier. Of course, there are a few companies that may have good discipline in taking care of the Suppliers. But they are few. A company needs to have rigorous Receivables follow up system.
These are few areas. Companies may have more focus areas relevant to them.
03. Plant Wise/ Division wise Profitability: The Plant / Division Heads have to be made responsible for P&L. Some Companies already have it while many do not have it. The Plant Head and his team have to be held responsible for the P&L. The Plant should have a System of holding different HODs responsible for the P&L Line items.
The Annual Budgeting Process is an important one. The Teams should be involved in Planning the Expenses of the Plant. Each HOD should be clear about what expenses he is responsible for. When he does the Budgeting for the Expense, he will understand how the Expense is building up. A Good Annual Budgeting Process will ensure that the HODs and their teams understand the Expense very well.
Managing these Expenses should become a KPI for the relevant HODs.
04. Setting up a good Budgetary Control System: A Good Budgetary control system should be set up in the Company that will help the Employees to exercise the tools to control the Expenses. A Production head should have a Control for Raw Material and Parts issue at Quantity level on a daily basis. This will ensure a practical control on the Consumption. He should know how much quantity of Consumables he is consuming and what quantity is okay. A Good Budgetary Control System will take a few years to develop. But it has to start. Company has to create focus on this. The Finance team has to play a big role in making this happen.
05. Regular Reviews: Regular P&L Reviews have to take place with the teams. The Finance team should initiate them and the Leaders have to conduct them. The HODs should be asked to present the data and a Corrective Action and Preventive Action if the expense goes out of Budget. These regular reviews create a focus on the Budgetary Control.
06. Cost reduction: An Active Cost Reduction exercise should be happening in the Company and any Cost overruns have to be compensated by the Cost reduction Projects. A good Cost reduction system should be there in the Company.
This way the P&L focus can be taken deep into the Organization.
One concern that some people may have is that if there is too much of P&L focus in the Manufacturing Plants, the Plant teams may not focus on the Customer Service and they may become too money oriented.
We are doing Business with Customers to make money. To make money the Customers have to be definitely kept happy. But if we are not able to make money from the Business, then there is something seriously wrong with our approach. We have to make our Businesses profitable while making the Customers happy.
How good and deep is the system to manage Profits in your Company?
The Indian Economy is undergoing a tough phase. Top line growth and Bottom line existence are coming under threat. Companies need to raise their game in using their teams to the next level. Traditionally Indian companies have not been focusing on developing the People. It is time to realize that without developing the team, we will keep having BIG teams of lowly skilled team members contributing sub-optimally. Let me discuss a few examples that I observed in Companies to stress the importance of focusing on Competencies of Team members.
Shyam is the Materials Manager of Exwhy Limited an Autoparts company. The Company’s Raw Materials Inventories hover around 55 Days most of the year. Shyam is simply clueless about how he can control the Inventories. There are no methodologies in the Company for controlling Inventories. Shyam is simply unaware of practices like Kanban, Supermarkets and other Inventory Control Methods. Every month the blame for high inventories is put on lack of Forecasting of Demand and Inventories continue to be very high eating away the Profits of the Company. In addition, the Company keeps losing out on Top line due to Material shortages.
Ram is the Machine shop head. There are 55 Machines in the Machine shop. The Production Scheduling in the Machine shop is very inefficient, and Machines keep idling for significant amount of time. The Company has high Variety and low volume. There is absolutely no focus on the SMED. Ram is not aware of any of these Techniques. He had been in the Company for 12 years and wields a lot of clout with the Senior people in the Company. Company keeps losing out on the Utilization of Machine shop which is around 52% in good months!
Som is the Materials head of the Company. The Company’s Manufacturing involves a lot of Assembly activity. The Assembly just does not work as per the Production plan released by the PPC. Everyday there are many Schedule changes due to Material shortages. The Company is not able to supply on time to its’ Customers. Their Ontime delivery is around 40%. Company is losing out on Market opportunities in a big way. Som is simply not aware of how to eliminate these Material shortages. To give a good solution for this Som needs to have knowledge of Kitting, Kanban, Production Planning concepts, Supplier Development, Some Leadership Qualities to bring the teams across the functions together for solution.
Peter is the Sales and Marketing Head of the Company. Due to the tough Economic situation, the Demand for Company’s Products is low. But there are opportunities in the market for New Product introductions. The Company is very inefficient at New Product Development and launching the Product into the Market. They keep taking very long time to do this and inevitably they keep losing 2-3 years of Sales in the process. Peter needs a combination of Competencies to drive this better in the Company. He needs to learn how to collect VOC (Voice of Customer) properly, coordinating a faster Product Development, Managing the Launch Process, learning how to select the Segment where he wants to operate in the market and so on. Peter lacks most of these Competencies. Company keeps suffering due to this.
I can quote a number of Examples like this where the Companies are having huge inefficiencies as their teams are not having the Competencies required to resolve the situations on the ground. Many a times these situations require a combination of Functional and Leadership Capabilities. Normally there is no help available to the teams. Management keeps sending the teams to some General training programs and keep struggling to measure the Training effectiveness!
What is the Solution?
When we look at the Solutions that Companies have to attend to this, not many companies have any solution at all! They keep suffering continuously! Companies keep losing top line and bottom-line opportunities.
Time has come when many companies cannot afford to ignore this any longer. If these inefficiencies are not addressed, now the Companies will start to fail in the market. They may even close down in next few years. Some Companies are recognizing the need to change and starting to address while many more are simply clueless what the problem is.
What needs to be done?
I recommend that Companies start focusing on the Competencies of its’ Team and recognize the importance of Processes in their Companies. They need to develop a methodology for People Development that becomes a continuous process in their Company.
I am not talking about a one-time training. I am talking about developing a Process in the company that will help you maintain the Competencies of your team and keep improving it as the Business situation demands.
Developing people cannot be done on a standalone basis.
Following is the Process that I recommend:
01. Define the Competencies required: As a onetime activity it is required to work out the Competencies that are required for your Team. Be ruthless in linking these Competencies to your Business needs. If you say your Team requires ‘Planning’ Capability you should be able to define a ‘Business Context envelope’ around this Competency. What problem will it solve if your Production Manager learns about ‘Planning’? What improvement in Business Result can you see by teaching him about ‘Planning’? You need to define the Functional and Leadership Competencies required.
02. Select the Annual Agenda: When you work out the Competencies required you may work out a longer list of Competencies. Any team can develop in 2-3 Competencies in a year. Nothing more. Do not attempt to make your Team competent in just about every Competency in one year. It won’t happen. Go step by step. Select the Annual agenda in line with the Business Agenda.
A Company that is trying to improve Sales will have to focus on developing the Competencies of teams towards this. If New Product Development is inefficient, then prioritize the Competencies related to this area in every Function. Let the focus be clear.
If you train the Team in these Competencies, you should be able to see improvement in Business Results.
At the end of the year, you should be able to improve the New Product Development Process in your Company and get the Products out in shorter lead time and with better Quality. Your Customers should be able to feel the difference.
By keeping it close to your Business Agenda, you just eliminate the problem of measuring ‘Training effectiveness’. It is a silly discussion. Why do we train our Teams in such a way that we can’t measure the effectiveness of Training?
03. Define Micro Skills: Do not end with defining Competencies alone. Define Micro Skills that your Team needs to deliver better Results.
Eg. In the above example of improving New Product Development process in your company, the Team needs to learn about ‘Quality Function Deployment’. Team needs to learn about ‘Collecting Voice of Customer’ or ‘Working out a Validation plan’ that can capture most of the problems. These are Micro Skills that will give you better Business Results!
04. Appoint a Business Coach: It would be very helpful if you can get a Business Coach for your Team. This Business Coach should be someone who worked in the industry and who can talk your Business language. Engaging just Trainers who do not have deep Business perspective simply will not help.
This Business Coach should be able to understand the Business side and Leadership Side of developing your Team.
You should engage this Coach for longer periods to get best Benefits.
05. Methodology of Training: You need to have a strong methodology for the Training. One needs to recognize the fact that teaching the Concepts is only very small part of Training and Development of your Team.
a) Defining Micro Skills as explained above.
b) Prepare the Team by giving them feedback about the current status on these Micro Skills. Create a ‘need to learn’.
c) Develop E-Learning Modules for the Micro Skills. These will remain with you for training / Re-training of your team.
The E-Learning modules will address the Concepts as well as Practical application stories in the company.
Eg. While addressing the Micro Skill of ‘Taking Voice of Customer’ from the Customers in the market, you may address the different types of Customers that your Company has and Problems in taking VOC from them. Here, already there will be experience in the Company about types of problems. The E-Learning module will capture these examples and advice about how to handle it.
d) Apply the Micro learning on a weekly basis. Encourage the team to learn for 2 hours every week. You can declare Weekly Learning hours in each Function when the team would learn the E-Learning modules.
e) Define the Certification Criteria for each Micro Skill and implement it. Eg. For the New Product Development skills discussed above, the Certification criteria may be as follows:
i) Learning the Concepts – Level 1 Certification.
ii) Level 1 and doing the activity under guidance (Eg. Actually, collecting the VOC) – Level 2 certification.
iii) Level 2 + Improving the VOC for a specific Project – Level 3 Certification.
This way you would certify the Team members on the basis of actual results.
Implement the Certification Criteria. The Business Coach should certify so that the focus Is clearly on meeting the criteria.
f) Continuous feedback: The feedback to the team can be given from at least two sources. 360 Degree Feedback from a group of people with whom the Team member interacts regularly. Feedback can also come from the Micro Results that are expected. Eg. When the Team member learns about ‘Time and Motion study’, we can see if he is able to do a study on his own without guidance.
g) Business Reviews: The Business Coach should accompany the Company’s Leaders in the Business Reviews. He will be the observer who would look at the application of the Micro Skills for improvement in the Business results. The Supervisors of the Team can interact with the Business Coach to give him feedback about the Business Coaching. This will ensure the Business Coach is in the right direction.
h) Link to results: The whole process should be measured with Business Results in a close manner. It will keep improving the process itself. The results expected should be defined at a Micro Level. Results can be Process results and Business results.
This way the Business Coach can help you establish a methodology for People development in your Company and bring the focus on to Competencies of the Team.
How focused are you on the Competencies of your Team?