Manufacturing Sector is a very old worldwide with Several Industries having Decades and sometimes more than a Century History. Like any other Sector, Manufacturing Companies deal with several Stereotype practices. Many Companies keep following the age-old practices without challenging them.
Let us examine a few of them and how breaking the Stereotype can perhaps show you new Possibilities. Sometimes huge new possibilities!
We need Employees with experience in our Industry: This is one of the Big Stereotype practices that several Industries follow. In the last 7 years, as a Consultant I have come across Professionals who swear that their industry is ‘Special’ and it requires people with experience only in their Industry. Because people from other Industries ‘just can’t understand the complexities of their industry’. I have heard this from ALL industries.
Let me discuss one actual example. A Progressive Leader from a Foundry decided to challenge this Stereotype practice. He recruited a Professional from Automobile industry as the head of their Plant. This Professional did not know anything about the Foundry Business. He brought with him the knowledge of several Best practices from Automobile industry. He helped the Company to transform the Plant. As he did not have the ‘baggage of experience’, he tried out new practices.
Let me quote another example from same Foundry industry. This time, the Leader tried out ‘Fresh Engineers’ with absolutely no experience at Supervisor level in various functions in the Foundry like New Product Development, Manufacturing, Quality etc. This Leader was a Foundry Industry veteran. He trained the Freshers in the Foundry knowledge himself. The fresher Engineers excelled in each function. They thought about everything in a fresh manner and went where none of their predecessors dared to go. Everything in that Foundry improved.
I remember a Senior Professional from Aerospace industry coming into Automotive Parts company. He introduced some very precision manufacturing to the Automotive parts Company. The Practices that he brought in helped the Auto parts company to shape up better for the entry into Aerospace industry.
I can quote examples from several other Industries. Wherever the Leader took calculated risk of taking people from more mature industries, it worked well. This requires a Leader taking Calculated risk. Once the New Recruit is supported well, there is bound to be much better results.
Our Quality System is excellent: There is hardly any Manufacturing Company that does not believe their Quality System is excellent. Most of the Companies would have a Quality Plan and they swear they are following every bit of it. Yet, they will be having plenty of Customer complaints and Internal Quality rejects. Most of them do not relate the problems to the Quality Plan and its’ adherence.
The belief is almost that some invisible force is creating the Quality Problems!!
My experience is that when you conduct a strict audit of their Quality Plan and its’ adherence, most of these Companies will not score more than 40-50% adherence!! Either the Quality Plan is not adequate, or it is not adhered to. That is the reason for their Quality woes.
But they would say there is nothing wrong with their Quality System!
In Some companies I found that it is simply not possible to do all the Quality checks that they listed in their Quality Plan with the meagre strength of people doing that work.
Challenge the Quality System in your company and recast it totally. Sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes for this.
Quality is the responsibility of the Quality Inspectors/Engineers: In a Shift, in a Manufacturing Company there may be 12-15 Engineers looking after the Production, Maintenance, Engineering and so on. But the Quality Checks are done only by one or two Junior most Quality Inspectors in the shift. Everyone else do not seem to pay any attention to Quality!!
Quality Problems and Customer Complaints are dealt with only by the Quality Engineers. Production Engineers are busy with Numbers, Other Engineers are dealing with their own priorities.
This is a non-starter. One or two Junior most Engineers can’t be controlling the Quality. Quality has to be the responsibility of everyone in the Factory.
While many of the Readers would say this is a very old issue, you would be surprised to know that still in majority of the Companies the Quality is the business of only Quality Engineers / Inspectors.
Challenge this notion! Implement the ‘Layered audit’ concept where the Employees right up to the Plant Head and right across the functions have to participate in Assuring Quality.
You can’t forecast the Market Demand and Manufacturing has to deliver whatever is demanded by Customer: It is not easy to forecast the Customer Demand in any Industry. It is also required to deliver what the Customer demands. No doubt about these two imperatives.
But it is not correct to give up on Market Demand Forecast as it is difficult to forecast. This is too easy a way out for the Company. But a very costly way out. A Company that tries to supply to meet its’ Customers’ needs without some type of Forecasting will do so at a very high cost. This Company will have to keep high Input inventories / WIP and Finished Goods stocks.
Challenge the notion that you can’t forecast. You need to formulate your own Forecasting model and keep improving it over a period of time. You may have low accuracy of the model initially. But as you keep improving it with new information, your accuracy will improve.
Whatever Is the accuracy of your Forecasting model, not having a model is worse.
A Company that does not forecast will lose out big on the Top line and Bottom line. I know many Companies who argue that they are not losing out on the topline and somehow, they are meeting it.
My experience is that a Company that is behind the Market requirement will definitely Lose the topline. When the Company is having a lot of strain in meeting the Market demand, the Sales team of the Company will become typically inward focused. They are worried about the deliveries and do not want to go to the market and face the Customers. Resultantly the Company will start losing out on Sales.
My experience is that if we resolve this issue, a Company’s sales may go up by about 15-25%. As you service the market better, you start selling more. Availability of the Product is a fundamental issue in taking the market.
You need to Ramp up the Production very fast in the new Factory: When a Company sets up a new Factory, it tries to set up the factory very fast and start off the Production in a great hurry! I hear the boasting of the Companies that they started the factory in 6 months and started Billing the Customers!
Typically, these companies would make a dash to building the Factory by putting enormous pressure on the Civil Team. They would start up the Production ‘somehow’.
I recognize the fact that the investment that a Company puts in has to pay back. But a new Factory is a huge opportunity for a Company to:
a) Redefine the Productivity.
b) Redefine the Quality.
c) Re-engineer the Organization structure.
d) Re-engineer just about everything that you do in the new factory.
When you treat the New factory setting up like a 100-meter dash, you hardly have a chance to do this.
I am not saying you should delay the factory setting up. But what is needed is to Plan the wonderful opportunity in great detail and ensure the Company goes to a new level with the new factory.
Let it take optimum time to do this Re-engineering effort. Don’t lose out on the opportunity to redefine your Manufacturing in the hurry to start Production!
Our New Products are excellent, everything is fine: The New Product Development Team most of the time keeps defending its’ Product and the Product development process very closely. When a New Product is being developed, there is a good chance to fail as you are doing it for the first time! If the Team is adapting the mindset of ‘everything is fine’, then there is a good chance that the Company’s Customers will find out most of the Problems with the New Product.
The R&D Engineers usually a proud lot. They would be having very high Self-confidence. You would like them to be that way. But they should encourage the Practices that challenge the assumptions at every stage.
The Engineers should be encouraged to keep looking at DFMEA seriously. The team needs to be encouraged to look at the whole process from a distance and find more and more problems with their design so that they can make it stronger.
Challenge the Status-quo
There can be many more Stereotype Practices in a Company. A Company needs to keep challenging the Status-Quo regularly.
Are you challenging the Stereotype practices in your Company?