In the Last article, we examined how a Company can use the Business Awards to further their Business Goals. One should be very clear about what is the End and What is the means. In the heat of the awards, one should not get lost that getting the award is the End.
In this article, I am looking at the process of challenging a Business Award.
Run your Business like a series of Sprints
To ensure the Company pursues its’ Business Goals with full vigor, a Leader needs to create surges of energy from time to time. The energy levels go down by default. This is quite apparent in many companies when you see their failure rate towards their own Targets.
It is ideal if a Company can be run in a manner wherein the Teams pursue the goals with great vigor. I am sure good number of Companies may be running like this across the world. But many other companies need help in this area.
Challenging the Business Awards is one way of maintaining the Mojo within the Company.
What Award should you challenge?
Before you decide what Award would you like to challenge, you should decide what Improvement methodology works for you. Some companies go for 6 Sigma, some go for TPM, Some others for TQM and so on. Some Companies may have their own Business Systems within their company. But they may borrow the principles from all Best Practices. I would recommend this route.
I would further recommend that you don’t use the Specific Terminology that is used in TQM, TPM and so on. Put your own names for each of the practices. That would give it your own company flavor. For example, you need not use TPM as a term. But you can have a term like ‘Good Maintenance Practices’ (GMP) and formulate your own practices. I say this as it is better not to bring in the baggage of other companies into your Company. You should formulate the Best Practices in Maintenance that work for you!
Once you have an outline of your own Business System, you would of course have to start practicing the Business System. You can use a Business Coach here. Someone who Is experienced in implementing the Business Systems.
After you form your own ideas about what works for you, then you can look at challenging an award. Don’t just look at one award. One award would give you energy for may be 2-3 years. Think about at least next 10-12 years. What next after this award? Is there a next level of this award? Eg. Deming Award, Deming Grad Prize. After you get all awards, what will be your way of generating this extra energy in the Company? Ideally you should learn how to generate this energy in the organization with the experience of challenging couple of awards.
There are several Business Awards. You can Google them, and you would get a long list. Depending on your Business Practices, you can choose which Award and which methodology would fit you. You can go to other practicing companies and listen to them. It is important to listen to their failures as well as their successes.
What happens when you challenge an award?
Your company has to adapt the Standards and Processes that this Award / Methodology prescribes. So, be ready to make a major improvement in your Business Processes using these criteria. You are going to practice each of the Criteria, and you are not going to pretend you are practicing it to get the award!
Most of the Awards allow you to adapt the Criteria, to your needs. Do not believe if someone tells you that you have to use them as they are.
Use the Award criteria and the Best Practices from that Methodology genuinely to take your Business Practices to the next level. This is a must. If you do not do this, you would end up doing something to just get the award and you would lose focus on your Business!
Choose your Guru
Many of the Awards like TQM / TPM awards require you to take the help of a Japanese Consultant. This is quite fine. They do add a huge amount of value to a Company. But after looking at these Sensei for many decades, my learning is that a Company can get maximum benefit from the association if there is a Local Guru who Is aligned to this Sensei’s thinking. I have seen many companies that are not able to use the help of the Japanese Sensei fully as many of the Sensei struggle to be understandable to Team members beyond the senior level. This is also a reason why the TQM / TPM efforts stay at the ‘top’ in many companies.
I believe that the Local Guru and Japanese Sensei can together give Best output to the Company.
Practicing the Principles
Once you choose the Guru, work out your next 3 Year Goals and look at how the Best Practices of the chosen methodology (TQM / TPM / 6 sigma) will help your Company to achieve the 3 Year Goals much better.
You should create internal champions for each of the Major Principles. You also will need a full time Business Excellence team.
The Principles should be genuinely put into practice to get a better result in each of the Goals of the Organisation. We will not practice any Principle that does not seem to add value somewhere.
The practices have to be continuously improved as they are practiced.
The chosen Gurus will play a role of auditing these Practices and helping the Company to get the best out of the Principles.
Some of the ‘Must Dos’ in this area are:
- Work out the Major Goals for every Function.
- For the big three goals, formulate Cross functional Teams that would get the BEST results for the company. Eg. A Company may decide to improve their market share in three years by 5%. This requires Cross functional working.
- Create a sense of urgency by working out the Audit schedule by the Gurus till the final audit. Please note that this is the major purpose for which you got in to the Award route!
- The Audits by the Gurus should be linked to specific progress that various Teams need to make.
- Create a good Progress chart that would motivate the Teams. Create enthusiasm around the Goals.
- Improvement Story writing: There is a practice in all major Award journeys to write an improvement Story. This is called as Schedule A and B in Deming Award Criteria. This is a very powerful practice. When you write your Function’s Improvement story over past 2-3 years, you may or may not be happy with the improvement curve. That dissatisfaction actually sets the ball rolling. Through the Story, you would gain an upper level picture of the progress that you are able to achieve. When you are not satisfied or when your Boss is not happy with the progress, the real change will start!
- Write this Improvement Story early in the journey and keep repeating it / updating it every 6 months or so. This helps you to keep having a Bird’s eye view of your progress.
Create Learning avenues
While your Team is shown the three-year goals and you have also created the extra energy towards those goals, you also need to equip the team with much better skills in their Functional and Leadership areas.
You need to make some serious progress in some of the following areas:
- Engineering Problem solving ability in your Company. This is fundamental to a Manufacturing Company.
- Your Product Technology. You should be able to push the boundaries of Product efficiency and become much better player in the market.
- Your Manufacturing Process should become as Lean as possible. You should formulate your own Manufacturing Systems during this period.
- All your Processes like Sales Process, Marketing methods, New Product Development process etc should mature during this time.
- Using I.T and Industry 4.0 elements you should go to a much higher level in Productivity / addressing Customer needs.
There can be more areas.
Create Learning avenues for Employees to learn in these areas and implement their Learnings.
Shifting the focus of the team members on their Skills is the progress that a Company should do. Using technology in the form of E-Learning can be a good idea. The Company should re-engineer the learning using Technology.
Inspiring the Teams
The Leaders in various functions should be able to inspire the teams towards the goals. The Leaders need to be developed to ensure this. Putting the Leaders on to a Personal Improvement journey through a Leadership Development program can be a good idea.
Each Leader should be helped to inspire their teams.
Some of the Best practices in this area of getting results are as follows:
- Recognize the better performing teams.
- Communicate much better using the Technology available today. Many Creative possibilities are there in this area.
- Bring out the Employee participation in the Goal Achievement. There needs to be many methods of engaging the Employees. Few methods may not fit ALL employees.
- Celebrating the progress made by individual teams and Company as a whole.
- Diagnosis of Performance every 6 months. Align this with the review by the Gurus. Guru as an outsider can evaluate your analysis of your Progress and help you make corrections.
Your own Sprint Process
The Leadership should be quite aware that challenging and winning this award is the end in itself. It is a means to learn the process of ‘Motivating the teams to pursue the Business goals in a vigorous manner’.
You should develop your own ‘Sprint process’ towards your Goals using the Award journey!
All the very best !
Four Indian Companies have won the Deming Prize for 2019. With that 33 Companies from India won Deming Prize so far. One of the Companies that won Deming Prize in 2019 is ELGi Equipments Limited, an Industrial Air Compressor Manufacturer from Coimbatore. I worked for this company for about 7 years and that is a reason to be extra happy and proud of ELGi’s achievement! Congratulations to all ELGians world over!
ELGi is a good example of sustaining the Excellence over a period of time. I can see two big reasons for this sustenance of Excellence as an outsider with some inside knowledge (though outdated now).
The first Big reason is the commitment of the Leader. The Managing Director, Jay is fully committed to this process. This is a very big reason why they have won the Deming Prize now. I can’t imagine ELGi going anywhere near the Prize without this. His Commitment, I am sure would have trickled down to every ELGian.
The Second Big reason is the ‘Full Time Business Excellence Team’ called as ‘ELGi Business System Team’ or EBS Team in ELGi. I have seen many companies who do not care to spend money on this full-time Team, and I have seen that their practices collapsed over a period of time. A Full-time team is needed to sustain the practices and keep improving them continuously. This is a strong team in ELGi that motivates the employees to sustain the practices.
There may be more reasons that ELGians would know. These are my top two looking from outside.
So, how do Awards help companies? Should you go for an award?
There are many Excellence Awards available for Manufacturing Companies to challenge. Deming Prize, Deming Grand Prize, TPM Excellence award, TPM Sustenance award, Rajiv Gandhi National Quality award, Bajaj Award, CII Award and so on. You can Google and you will get many of them.
Running Business is a Sprint or a Marathon?
An Athlete who runs Sprints is generally Muscular and his approach to the run is to put his full effort and cover the distance at full speed. He aims at putting in his full energy for that limited time and get the best result.
An Athlete who runs Marathon is generally lean and strong. He aims at conserving his energies and run for the long distance. He aims at completing the Marathon in Best possible time.
So, should you run your Business like it is a Sprint or like it is a Marathon?
We are good at focused efforts!
My observation is that many Companies struggle to maintain the momentum of improvement within the Company. Teams keep losing their interest towards the Goals, Senior Management keep wondering why Kaizens do not happen on the Shop floor, why the Sales team is not pushing with full vigor towards improving their market share and so on.
We can observe the same behavior in our Society too. The Corporation cannot maintain the Sanitation in the City. The Police cannot maintain the traffic discipline. The Road works seem to be happening forever. The Flyover project seems to be going on without end!
But we are good at getting things done if there is an emergency! Remember the Commonwealth Games in 2010 in Delhi? Even before couple of weeks, the games looked doomed. Lot of work was left incomplete. The foot over bridge in front of the stadium collapsed with just 12 days to go to the Games! Yet, we managed everything, and Games were conducted without any major embarrassment to the Country!
I remember Tamil Manadu (A World Conference on Tamil Language) in Coimbatore in 2010. The whole city was in a mess with 10 days to go. But then the Government pulled its’ act together and got every work done in those last 10 days! Coimbatore got a face lift during that time!
Everyone who works for a Manufacturing Company would know the ‘Tremendous efforts’ that the teams would put in hours before the ISO Certification / Renewal audits or the ‘Fantastic effort’ that the New Product Team has put in after threats from the Customer that he will cancel the Order if another deadline is missed out!
There can be many more examples of focused and concentrated effort under duress! We are good when it comes to focused effort with clear goals. This effort has to be for a limited time. Otherwise, the problem of maintaining the momentum returns!
Run Business like a series of Sprints!
It would be nice to run Business like a series of Sprints! Focused efforts with Clear goals for everyone in the Company!
If you can manage to do this without going for outside Awards, it is better. The concentration is on Business and Business only! You can do it if you can create enthusiasm around the Annual / Three-year Goals of your Company!
I would say the following are very important to make this happen:
- CLEAR goals for the Company / Individual Employee. These Goals have to be Clear for the Year / Quarter / Month / Week / Day.
- Company and Individuals should be having good Continuous LEARNING opportunities. The environment in the Company should be encouraging and enabling Learning continuously.
- LEADERSHIP should be able to INSPIRE the teams to raise above their normal potential and deliver something superior!
If these three elements are there in your Company, you can definitely create Sprints that would keep motivating your team to keep delivering continuous superior performance.
I would prefer this as the whole Company would be focused only on Business.
Many companies use the Award route when the Internal Motivation is not happening or they may chose it to add to internal motivation! There is nothing wrong with it. This is like an Athlete taking a performance booster. You would agree with me that you can’t be on Performance Boosters forever. Many companies learn how to create this ‘Sprint like situation in the Company’ after a few awards. I also know companies who got stuck to the Award culture forever! I do not recommend this!
All said and done, Companies do get slightly distracted when they go for an award. The award criteria can be nicely aligned with the Company’s Business Goals. But if it is not done properly, you would be ‘doing a lot of work for the award in addition to your regular work’ ! This is where the Companies get distracted. The Leadership has to ensure this does not happen.
There are many companies who have failed to make their effort for an award align with their Business Goals. These companies will also loose the benefits of the Award very fast! The Excellence which seems to have got them the award fitters away very quickly.
How to get maximum benefit from an Award?
You won the award and you are on the top of the world! Savor the moment. The Business exigencies are always there to remind you of reality that you need to handle.
You need to ensure that you get maximum benefit from the Award you just won. You can do some of the following.
- Ensure the Goals of the Teams and every individual in the team are clear and continues to be challenging. Don’t let the team go for a ‘Long unwind’ after the award. If they are achieving something continuously, they can’t be getting tired of achievement. If ‘they’ feel their work is an achievement!
- Ensure the Continuous Learning environment is improving in the Company. Celebrate Learning in the Company. Put Learning Goals for the entire company and every individual. Use Technology like E-Learning to help employees Learn continuously. Micro Learning is a great concept that can help Companies to build that elusive momentum towards goals!
- Address the Employees and put them on to a medium-term Leadership Programs. Help them to sharpen their Functional and Leadership Capabilities. Give regular feedback to the Senior people. Help them become better Leaders who can INSPIRE the teams. Every Leader at every Level should be able to Inspire their teams. Focus on encouraging the Leaders to hit the road and work hands on.
- Develop your own ‘Sprint’ Practices without the Award. These practices should be put in place immediately. While you may challenge another award, you still need to build the ‘Sprint’ practices without the award.
Use the Award to get over the Award!
In the next article, we will look at the process of winning Prizes and Awards!
For a Leader to be successful, especially in these fast-changing times, he/she has to be Learning continuously. But Learning is one of the first casualties once a Graduate join a Job. Somehow the habit of Learning dies once someone joins a Job. As one gets promoted and goes to senior positions, the Learning habit gets buried in the ‘heap of experience’. One can Learn from own direct experiences and from what is happening around them. My observation is that most of the Executives are very resistant to Learning. The more senior a person is the more he/she believes that there is nothing more to Learn.
To Learn or not to Learn?
If you are the Senior Leader in the Company, you may be even thinking that it would be counterproductive to say that you are learning, or you want to learn! The proportion of Learning Leaders is very small.
How do I learn?
It is not that no one wants to Learn! I observe that many of us want to Learn. Learn something new and so on. But, most of the times we fail to Learn! I notice that many people may not know how to Learn!
When you were in College or in formal Education, there is a structure to your Learning. I remember when I went to a 3-year MBA while working. There was a strong structure of Monthly classes, Assignments, Residentials, Group discussions and so on. I was able to Learn a lot! I am always thankful to my employer then, Rane Group who sponsored me for that excellent Course! When you are dealing with many issues live, you can learn much more than when you just completed your Degree!
Now, how do I learn at Job where there may not be a structure for learning? How do I learn in my Business? This seems to be the issue many people are facing.
There is nothing to Learn!
Of course, other than this there is this callous attitude of saying ‘I don’t have time to learn’! For these ‘Busy bodies’ the time has not yet come! We can try to help them by trying to rise their ego to Learn. But responding or not is still their choice!
While working in a job and as an Executive and Business Coach, I have always tried my best to Learn as fast as possible. I remember one celebrated Teacher commenting about me as an ‘Osmotic Learner’ meaning someone who learns with every breath! This had been a god given strength for me.
I have been trying to teach the art of Learning to many people with whom I had the fortune to work with.
I would like to present you a few Best practices in Learning.
01. Learning is Highly Technical: While some of us can learn fast and naturally, many of us require a structure for Learning. If you agree with me that this Human Body is a sophisticated machine, then there is a way in which this Machine Learns. I think David Kolb captured this very well in his Learning Model.
Kolb says as we go thru many experiences in life, we need to Observe what we are going thru in a reflective manner. We then have to conceptualize the Learning to our context and then experiment it in our life.
We need to ensure we follow these steps. Many of the Training programs stop at Concrete experience stage.
We have to Learn the art of Reflection. This is very critical step in Learning. No reflection – No Learning! But once you cross this stage the other two are as important.
In the area of Reflection, writing Diary / Writing Logs of incidents that we go thru can be very useful. This is the way we try to practice what we learnt!
02. Your own Leadership Model: I would encourage every Leader to formulate his/her own Leadership Model. This model should reflect how he/she is practicing the art of Leadership. This does not mean we will not improve this model. We are going to have the model so that we can improve what we have. If there is no Model you don’t know what you are practicing and you may not be able to improve.
I am reproducing my own model of Leadership below. This is one model. I am sure you can do even better than this one.
I continuously keep improving this model.
03. Career Goals / Learning Goals: You need to be clear about the direction in which you would like to learn! For this, you need to have your Career Goals and Learning Goals for at least next one year! Without this, you may work hard and still not find yourself with good direction!
04. Showing Gratitude: Showing gratitude for what you already have is very important to Learning. Acknowledging what you have is important to get more! Once you start showing gratitude, your attitude towards world changes radically. It opens you up for more Learning. Try it! You can write down all the good things that you already have in your Life and thank whoever has helped you to get them. It may be your Teacher, your Boss, your Wife, your children. It would be great if you can tell them personally. You can keep going thru this in your mind every day!
05. Partners in Progress: In your Learning journey, you need the help of your Friends / Colleagues. Without them, you would be simply Blind to your Strengths and Weaknesses. It would be good to have a group of Colleagues/ Friends to get a 360 Degree feedback and a feedforward as to what you can do to improve yourself in a specific area. Please be bold to pull in a few people who do not see eye to eye with you on a few issues. When someone is not agreeing with you, it is a chance to improve. If you ignore them, you are going to lose chance to improve!
06. Use Technology: We are going thru Fourth Industrial Revolution! These are exciting times. There is a lot of technology around us and we can use it for our Learning too. You can rewire your Learning using the Technology. Use E-Learning courses. A Good E-Learning Company can help you to use the Courses in a systematic way. Micro Learning is a concept that can help you to learn regularly and at a Micro Level. You can keep learning the Micro Skills continuously.
Kick off a Learning Journey!
My experience of observing myself and others says that the whole journey has to start with ‘Reflection’. Please look at the Video of Robin Sharma on Reflection. He puts the concept together very well.
A few years back I had a chance to visit Toyota in Nagoya, Japan. We were allowed to go on to a ramp that goes on top of the Manufacturing Line across the factory. You could stand there for about an hour and observe the Manufacturing process at various places on the shop floor. It was a Car assembly line running in the shop floor with all the support functions available right next to the line.
Typical to Toyota Culture, the line was stopped frequently to fix problems. The problems were so small, and the response was so swift that each of the stoppages was for not more than a few seconds! The relevant team would run to fix the problem. We understood that the line was running so well that they had only problems that can be fixed in a few seconds. But they were still encouraging their employees to stop the line and fix them. The line had the traditional Andon String running the length of the line.
It was obvious that the Assembly Line is the center of the whole Factory. Everyone was focused on the Assembly Line and supporting it. They were all clear that they are there to ensure the Line is being run continuously without stoppage. The Support to Manufacturing was overwhelming.
Status in many of our Manufacturing Companies
There are few Companies in India that run like this. I am sure all the Vehicle manufacturers run like this. Automotive Companies have evolved this way. One helpful factor is that huge moving line in the Shop floor.
The Status even in the Auto Parts Companies is not as good. The status in non-Automotive sector is worse. The focus on the manufacturing is simply missing. Everyone is worried about the Production and if it is not coming, everyone is preoccupied with that worry. No doubt about it.
But the Companies do not work with the Manufacturing at the Centre. The Manufacturing would be suffering for want of attention in the midst of the ‘Worry for Production’. It sounds like I am talking about opposites! It is true. In the midst of their Concern for Production, the Companies are not positioned to support Production.
In fact, I have seen a Company where the Top Management target the Plant teams regularly as they feel the Plant Team is not performing! All the Corporate Functions regularly target the Plants for their ‘inefficiency’. The heads of Plant Heads roll regularly due to their ‘non-performance’. This type of Top Management and a Corporate team is a nightmare to all Manufacturing Plants!!
While the above Problem of Top Management targeting the Manufacturing Plants is not very rare, there are several other happenings in these Companies where the Manufacturing does not get good support.
01. People: The Work of the Supervisor Engineers and the Manager in charge of the Shop starts with running for the Workmen. Almost on every day, they lose some of the NEEM Trainees or the Contract Workmen and they can’t run the lines right from the beginning of the Shift. They run to HR department to plead with them to give them more people. Then, there will be usual rush to get more people and HR pleads with the Contractors to get them more hands. It is not overstatement to say that most of Indian Manufacturing runs at the mercy of these Contractors!! The first 90-120 minutes in every shift is spent by the Supervisor running around to get people! Who is worried about the Shift Startup procedures!!
02. Material: In most of the Companies the Production Plan simply does not work as there will be Material shortages almost on a daily basis. The Production Plans have to be changed. If changing is not possible, then the Shop will idle till the material comes. The Supervisor Engineer is again running around to Stores / Materials Department to plead with them to get him the Material. Most of the times the Production team Produces the Product for which the material is there. Not what is planned and not what is needed by Customer today!
03. Quality: Next task to the Supervisor Engineer is to run after the Quality Inspectors / Quality Managers to take their help in resolving the Quality Problems. The Supervisor Engineers are conditioned in such a way that they have forgotten that they are Engineers and even for a small problem, they search for ‘Quality Engineers’. The Quality Engineers / Managers have to take a call about the Quality issues either about Incoming material or about the Process.
04. Maintenance: Suddenly there may be a Breakdown of a Machine and the Supervisor Engineer has to run for the Maintenance team. These guys may be available mostly on the Shop floor. But they may be busy in something else! This Supervisor Engineer has to go to them and impress upon them about his line/machine.
05. R&D: Most of the days there will be a few New Products that are running on the Shop floor. They don’t behave in a predictable manner. The Parts are not settled, and Process is not settled. So, the Supervisor Engineer can be seen running to the R&D to get the experts to handle the problems with the New Products. The Production Manager also will get involved in this as he has to handle some Big Shots!
This way the Production Supervisor and the Production Manager have to run around the whole day to various people to seek their help! Sometimes the Top Management will get angry with them that they are not coordinating well with all functions!!
In fact the HR would recruit the Supervisors who are good at coordinating. The demand for Problem solving skills, Product / Process Knowledge etc in Supervisor Engineers may not be even asked about. It is decided in most of the Manufacturing Companies that the role of Production Engineer is to go around pleading with the various Powers in the Company to help him run the Production!
As the whole Company’s focus is on the Production numbers (?!), the Supervisors / Managers in Production have to ‘Perform’ and they dance the whole day.. all around the Company!!
This has to change. In Manufacturing Companies, the Manufacturing has to be at the center of the Company along with the Customer. If we do not have a stable Manufacturing, then the whole company right from the Managing Director has to focus only on that. This is good enough reason to change this set Paradigm of Supervisor Engineers / Managers running around the whole organisation!!
How it should be?
Settle the Age old problems: A Manufacturing Company has to settle the traditional problems of Material Shortages and ensure the Manufacturing runs as per a Plan ! This is not impossible. Every Supplier wants to maximize his Business with you. So, if someone tells you that Suppliers are not supplying, read it as ‘the Supplier engagement’ is not okay in your Company.
Should be Available on the Shop: All the People who directly contribute to the Manufacturing should be available on the Shop floor. The Andon signaling is a simple system that can be used to alert the concerned persons when there is a stoppage of a machine or a line on the shop floor. All concerned persons should be able to see the Andon light physically.
- A HR Officer should go to every line in the morning and check about availability of manpower and take care of problems if any.
- A Maintenance Engineer should have a simple system of getting notified about a Breakdown and he should be measured on his response time.
- A Material Buyer should be going to every line and looking at the Kanban cards. He should be held accountable to any Shortages.
- An R&D Engineer should be held accountable to occupying the shop floor beyond the time agreed.
- A Production Engineer should be encouraged to own the Quality. He need not be running around to fetch Quality Engineer/Manager.
Restrict the Meetings: The team who are on the Shop floor cannot be called for meetings. If they are required for a Meeting, then someone has to step into that role while the person is away from Shop floor. This has to be implemented strictly. If you are not allowing the Engineers to do their job, then how do you expect them to deliver?
Review of Losses: The Losses on the shop floor should be given utmost seriousness at all times. The Plant Management has to treat the Production Losses as a very serious issue. They need to minimize the losses continuously. There can be no other priority to the Plant Management till the Losses are addressed squarely. The Top Management should support this approach. Many Companies try to do too much on the shop floor without these fundamentals. Top Management wants to implement every fancy concept before they settle this. That is the main reason why the new initiatives do not work on the shop floor. So, we have to be patient with Manufacturing Plants. Build the Foundation first.
Accountability: The various Functional Heads should be held accountable to the Production line stoppages. This should be the biggest focus of the Functional Heads. Someone who is not focused on this has to be corrected firmly. If they are held accountable to the losses, I am sure the Functional Heads will deliver.
Manufacturing should be the focus: The Manufacturing Team has to be given very high focus and support. They should be treated as very important people and they should have the ear of every Senior person in the Company. We are not talking about individuals. We are talking about giving priority to the function. When you do it, the focus on the Manufacturing will improve.
Change the Paradigm
Change this existing / outdated Paradigm of Manufacturing running around everyone else in the Company to take care of daily Production. It makes Business sense.
A Company where the Manufacturing is not settled, cannot do anything else. Right from Managing Director would be preoccupied only with that worry!
It makes a lot of Business sense to settle this problem here and now!!
In the past 6-9 months, most of the Industries across India have started complaining about their Businesses slowing down. May be this problem very much exists in other countries too. But, let me focus on Indian Companies. The Slow down panic is there in many industries and everyone has his/her own theory about how bad it is, why it is happening and how long it will last.
In this article, I would like to just focus on ‘What a Company can do during the Slow down’.
Every Company would have expanded their capacities with some expectation of Sales every month. When that Sales is not happening consistently for a few months, they would start panicking. Usually, you would see following happening in Companies where the Sales is not happening as per plan and it started dipping below the last year and last few months average.
- Sales Team looks help-less. They are not achieving the Targets consistently and Sales numbers are falling steadily. The Sales team keeps reporting bad numbers. After a few months, the Management may start accepting that there is nothing that can be done, and Sales team is trying their best!
- Employees get fired. The Contract employees are the first to be fired. As the Sales Dip continues, the firing will extend to other types of Trainees, Junior Staff, in Some companies’ Senior people will be fired as it gives better bang per firing. These same Employers talk about the need for Employees to work as owners in good times and when things go wrong, they fire the employees (Rajiv Bajaj put this wonderfully in his interview with CNBC).
- Inefficiencies increase in Factories. The Factories start idling and the Production efficiencies increase. Again, this keeps getting accepted as okay as the Volumes are down.
- New Product activity reduces. Most of the Companies will see their New Product activity reducing as they do not want to take more expense and more risk during the slow down.
- Mad rush to reduce Fixed Costs. The Semi Variable / Fixed Costs get cut ruthlessly. Maybe it is right to do that. But even the essential ones will get cut.
- Negativity all around. There will be a mourning environment and the energies are down. Senior Management pet topic is about how to cut Costs (Again nothing wrong with this approach. But that can’t be the only chant.)
- Company starts going into a shell. You can almost see the company getting into a shell withdrawing all signs of life! It is almost like closing your eyes hoping the storm will just pass and it won’t affect you if you close your eyes!
- Everyone starts asking for Government help. Last but not least, everyone starts looking to Government to rescue them. Government can help Companies to enter in to new markets across Globe by passing on some subsidies to them. This is done by many Governments across the world. China is a wonderful example of supporting their Industries selectively so that they can penetrate the Global market. But, you can’t expect Government to come to your aid whenever there is sluggish demand or more serious slow down.
What else we can do?
I would argue that most of the Indian Manufacturing Companies have huge possibilities for improving themselves. The inefficiencies that are there in the Companies are huge. The Slowdown that is happening can be used to rediscover themselves in many areas of Business. We can look to becoming a stronger Company that can withstand these Slow times! I am not talking about throwing lot of money at problems. I am talking about fundamentally restructuring your P&L in such a manner that you can withstand these Slowdowns.
Let me highlight a few ways below. We will deal with each of these areas in detail in articles that will come in subsequent weeks.
01. Skill up your People: A Company is built only by the People that it has. When the Top line dips, Companies should not look at firing its’ People. This is foolish and it is akin to shooting yourself in your foot. When you look at the Shop floor Employees, most of the Companies are living on Contract employees and Trainees whom they can fire immediately! This is no great Leadership! You can show great Leadership by:
a) Re-engineering the Learning: Defining the Skills required for each of your Employees, Skill them up by using Modern Technology like E-Learning. Use this Slow down to re-engineer the way you focus on Skills.
b) Make Learning Contextual: Define Micro Skills and Micro Learning agenda for employees depending on your Business agenda for this Year. Train them for the Context by using the E-Learning.
c) Bring Skills to the center of the Business: Link Skills to Performance and link Skills to Performance assessment. This will ensure your Employees create a pull for Skilling up.
The Business Goal for this activity should be to Triple the Sales Turnover created by each employee in the Organization over next 2 years. This is very much possible. Leaders need to take up this challenge.
Do not look at firing Employees. Rather, build a Team that is totally committed to your Organization and this will make you win in the Longer run. In the Short term too, only this can create good results. If you fire people and improve your Bottom line, the Investors would see it clearly. You would be harming the Company by doing this.
02. Re-engineer your Business Systems: Most of the Indian Companies do not have a clear way of working. The SOPs are there in ISO files and they get dusted before every re-certification audit. After that no one looks at them and no one follows them. Some of the following can be done:
a) Re-engineer the way you Manufacture. If you have not implemented the Lean Concepts on your Shop floor, this is the time that you should do. Everyone will understand the seriousness of the Situation in a Slowdown.
b) Re-engineer the way work happens in various Functions. The Productivity of every activity can be at least doubled if you have not applied Lean principles to it. I am talking about the activities that your Staff does. Time taken for releasing a P.O, Time taken for accounting a Bill and so on.
c) Define the way of working in every Function. You should define your ‘way of working’ in every function. New Product Development System should be defined, Cost reduction System for your company should be defined, Sales Process should be defined, Marketing Process should be defined and so on.
The Objective of this exercise should be to get every activity in the Company done in 50% of the time compared to what it is now.
03. Re-engineer your Costs: The Opportunities for reducing the Cost in a significant manner are there for many companies. In the past decade or so, the Companies are focusing more on Costs. But still there are opportunities to reduce Costs. Some of the activities that can be taken up are:
a) Taking up Big Targets for Cost reduction.
b) Conducting Brain Storming sessions.
c) Involving Subject Matter experts.
d) Bench marking with World Class Products.
The Objective of this exercise again should be to improve the Profitability by 35% or more. A Big target will make your team to think entirely in a different manner. Have trust in your team, they will deliver the results.
04. Re-define the Market Place and the way you approach it: In the current status of the Industry where there is a big change that is coming up in Auto sector in terms of surge in Electric Vehicles and reduction in IC Engine vehicles, many Companies have to have a relook at their focus areas. They may have to redefine their Industry focus. A Foundry / Machine shop that is focused on Auto sector has to realign itself to other Industries.
When a Slowdown happens, it is not that the whole Business has disappeared. You are not growing. But there may be several other Companies that are growing. Indian Economy is growing by 5% right now. You are not aiming to capture the whole Economy. It is just fine for you if you are able to capture a few more new Customers. Every Prospective Customer is looking for new ways to save money and reduce costs in this environment. How can your Team deliver this to these Prospective Customers? If you are skilling up your Team, you can ask them to deliver this result for you. If you are firing them, then there is no one to deliver this result for you!!
If you have been rejecting RFQs that are 20% below your Price expectations, then can you challenge your team to start reducing the Costs and accept more of these RFQs?
05. Re-engineer your Products: Use this time to align with your Customers much more. Every Customer wants the same product at much lesser price. You may be having ideas for reducing the Cost and come out with a new Family of Products. But you would have been postponing it due to the pressure on the Factories and R&D Team. Now, the Factories are not having the Pressure. Focus more on New Product Development, come out with the Family of Products that may be Priced 20% cheaper and most of the functionality.
This is the time to teach ‘Frugal Engineering’ concepts to your New Product Development team and become more attractive to your Customers.
Fill your Company with Positive energy
There may be many more Initiatives that can be taken up. What I am suggesting is that you should use this time of Slow Down to energize your Employees and ask them to take your company to the next level in terms of Competitiveness.
Use this time to create some World Class Benchmarks!
I meet this team from a big Indian Tyre Manufacturing Company every month. I am helping this team to improve their Leadership Qualities. They are making very good progress. One of the members of this team is a Body Builder!! He is devoting a lot of time to exercising, lifting weights, running and so on. He is an absolutely fit guy!! He is real motivation to everyone around him.
But, I should say that this is an exception than rule among Employees of Indian Manufacturing. Even among youngsters, the percentage of people who are actively taking care of their health is very small. In any group of employees, I have not seen more than 20% who exercise regularly. Most of these people who exercise are just walking. May be 1% or 2% probably go to the Gym.
In any company it is the Mid to Senior Level Employees who take important decisions that affect more people in the Company, and these are the Leaders who give a Direction to the whole Company. I have seen that in most of the Companies this Leadership Team is not very healthy physically!! Again, there are always exceptions. There are some Leaders who are avid Marathon runners! Some Leaders who play sports and go to Gym regularly. But, as I said before this category is Very Very small!
Leaders need to be healthy Physically, Mentally, Emotionally and Spiritually. These are the Four types of Energies that are available to all of us. Many of us may not be aware of the four types of Energies.
What are the ill effects of ‘Unhealthy / Not very healthy Leadership / Employee Team’??
Handling Pressures: Today the Business environment is becoming more volatile than ever. The teams need to be contributing actively. The pressures are increasing continuously. The suicide of VG Siddhartha of Coffee Day is a case in point. I do not know about his Physical health at the time of Suicide. But, from what I read in the News Papers it is very clear that he was under tremendous stress mentally. Continuously working on Mental health could have helped him?
Growth Orientation: A Team that is healthy physically and mentally will be much more Growth oriented than a team that is not very healthy. Many Companies have the problem of their Employees not pushing for improvements. The Employees are quite busy in the routine and do not look at improvements at all. Taking care of Physical and Mental Health will help in enhancing the Capacity of the individual to handle more and look for improvement possibilities.
Execution capability: A Team of unhealthy Employees cannot be very good at Execution. They will keep missing the targets frequently and there will be generally frustration around. As the Targets are being missed, the Company will keep revising the targets downwards. This adds to the generally despondent environment around.
Productivity will suffer:The People Productivity will be an obvious victim. The team will not have much of inclination for working on improving Productivity as they will be feeling that they are already stretched a lot.
There can be many more ill effects of ‘Not very healthy’ Employees.
How to promote Wellness in a Company?
There are many ways in promoting the Wellness of Employees. I am capturing some of them below. I have been fortunate to be part of many such initiatives. Hence these are Initiatives that are working in Companies. Not theory.
You can start various initiatives to promote wellness in your Company:
a. Conduct a Yoga course. Repeat it every year. Encourage more and more employees to participate and learn.
b. Yoga weekly practice. Have a Wellness Centre in your company and encourage your employees to get together to practice Yoga and Meditation periodically.
c. Zumba Practiceweekly
d. Promote Sportsthroughout the year. Encourage employees to take leadership for individual Sports like Cricket, Basketball and so on.
e. Encourage your Employees to participate in Marathons. Encourage a Core group.
f. Encourage your employees to Walk at work every dayas part of their work. Let the office / Factory be designed accordingly. Eg. Let there be a walk involved for getting coffee / food etc.
g. Have an App for Health monitoringand motivate employees to Volunteer to get on to it.
h. Organize for ‘Health Talks’ on various Health related topics by Physicians.
i. Organize for ‘Healthy food habits’Consultation.
j. Promote Employees learning Meditationand practice it regularly.
k. Conduct a Course on ‘Mental health’and encourage employees to join it. Many Yoga institutes conduct this type of Courses.
l. Encourage employees to participate in Social Initiatives. This gives them Spiritual Energy.
m. Give help to Employees who need Counsellingfor problems at work or for problems at Home.
There can be many more initiatives.
It is important to encourage employees to take lead in the above Initiatives voluntarily. Wellness cannot be promoted by the Company unilaterally. It gains energy if you can find a group of Volunteers who will run many of these initiatives.
Company can be supportive to these Groups.
Use of Technology
Technology can be used for promoting the Health concept in a very active manner. One way is to have your own App for your Company. You may collaborate with any of the Health Apps that are already there and customize the app for your Company needs.
You can link the Medical tests of employees that you may be doing annually to the Health Apps and encourage the employees to address the Health issues proactively.
Wide variety of Initiatives
Companies should introduce many initiatives in this area. Employees may have their own priorities in the area of Health. Everyone may not be interested in the same initiative. Some may be interested in Yoga. While some others may be interested in Zumba. Similarly their interests in Sports also may vary. A Company should have a Target of engaging 100% of employees thru one Health initiative or the other.
What can be the Metrics for the Health of Employees?
It is very important to measure your efforts towards the Health of employees. There can be two types Metrics.
a) Process Metrics
b) Result Metrics
You need to measure the Process by which you are trying to promote the Health of Employees.
- Number of Participants in each of the Initiative.
- Regularity of Participation.
- Number of Initiatives introduced vs Initiatives Successful
- Number of activities planned vs executed in each of the Initiatives.
- Number of Volunteers in this area.
Results can be measured in a few different ways.
- Number of Employees in Good health.
- Number of Employees who improved their Health.
- Number of KPIs of employees in which there is improvement
Each company can devise their own way of measurement. But, measurement is important to ensure you know where you are going with the initiative.
Many companies do not have this type of focus on Health. Their reasons would be that they do not have time for this. But, if you are able to encourage a group of employees to take lead, then the Collective effort of the employees can push this focus forward.
Do you have focus on your Employees’ health?
All of us who worked in a few companies in our respective careers and those like me who had the wonderful opportunity to work with many Companies as a Business Coach would have observed that some Companies had a very good Working Culture whereas many Companies did not have such a great working Culture.
We generally say the Culture of the Company is good and may be recollect that this company had the practice of ‘Town hall meeting’ or ‘Annual Sports meet’ and so on.
Let us look at what a Good Work Culture is and how do we develop it in a conscious manner in a company.
I remember a definition of ‘Culture’. ‘Culture is the way we do things around here’.
So, a Work Culture personifies the way you run your Company. To understand this better, let us look at the case of any of the Religions that we practice. Each Religion has its Rituals / Festivals that are celebrated by the Practitioners of the Religion. These Rituals / Festivals survived for Centuries. In the Geographical locations where these Rituals / Festivals are followed rigorously, the Religion flourished. According to the Rituals / Festivals the Culture of that Religion developed. In the Same Religion, there may be different Rituals / Festivals in different Geographical Locations. So, the Culture in the same Religion in different areas may be slightly / vastly different. While the Governing Doctrine is same, the Culture may be different based on the Practices / Rituals / Festivals in that region.
But, the Practices / Rituals / Festivals play a very big role in sustaining a Religion. All the Religions have been sustaining for Centuries!
Now, if you want to develop and maintain a Good working Culture in your Company, you should be able to define your ‘Good Work Culture’. This may depend on the Values that your Company Practices and the way you want to contribute to the Society through your Company’s work.
It is good to start right at the top and be clear about the type of Work Culture that you want to build. But if you are not very clear about this overall objective, then you can look at some universal ‘Good to have’ Objectives.
Some examples are as follows:
01. Performance Focus: Competent Employees / Vendor Partners would definitely be very happy to work in an environment where good Performance is recognized and encouraged.
02. Professional Improvement: Again, the Employees / Vendor Partners would like to have a culture of Company encouraging / giving opportunities to the employees / Good Vendors to Learn continuously.
03. Wellness: Employees would love to work in a Company where their Wellness is given a good importance.
04. Customer Orientation: A Company where good Customer Orientation is there (Both internal and external Customer) would progress well.
05. Contribution to the Society: All Stake holders would be happy if the Company is seen as contributing to the goodness of the Society at large.
06. Process focus: Company may give importance to ‘How’ the Goals are being pursued in the Company and not just the Goals themselves.
This way a Company may have some overall Objectives that are not just monetary objectives but means to achieve the Business Goals of a Company in a consistent manner.
Why should companies pay attention to Culture?
People are the foundation for any Company. All the Stake holders are important. But it is ultimately the Stake holders who are making / breaking the company.
Even if a Company is not building a Working Culture deliberately, a Work Culture gets developed on the basis of how things get done in the company.
A Good / Bad Culture would develop without your active participation. If you want to develop a good culture based on your Company’s values, then it is better for you to participate in that process and try your best to influence it. If you do not control it, it will be left to the Dominant personalities in your Company who would anyway influence the way the work gets done in your Company.
If you are not controlling the Culture in the Company, then the Work Culture can keep changing as the Leaders in the Company change. This is the reason we keep hearing ‘It was an exciting place till 2 years back when ‘xyz’ was in charge’.
How do we build the Working Culture in a Company?
As we discussed earlier, the Company’s Work Culture is sum of its ‘ways of getting things done’.
One needs to introduce some specific Practices in the company that work towards the Objectives that have been set.
Let us discuss with reference to the Six Objectives of Work Culture that we earlier discussed.
a) Performance Culture: Some of the Practices that may be adapted to establish this culture are:
a. Having Measurable KPIs for every employee.
b. Having Transparent link between KPI score and Ratings. This should be visible to all employees.
c. Having clear rules for Promoting Employees.
d. Having practice of giving Objective Feedback by all Supervisors to their teams.
e. Celebrating Performance at the Micro Level. Leaders in the Company can have practice of giving small mementos to encourage Small but significant progress towards Goals.
f. Celebrating Good Ideas towards Work Objectives.
There can be many more innovative ideas.
b) Professional Improvement: You can promote many practices towards this Objective. Some of them are as follows:
a. Having periodic Technical Paper presentations and inviting IIT / International University Professors who are experts on your Company’s Technology area.
b. Sponsoring the higher studies of Employees.
c. Promoting study of your Technology area.
d. Promoting the learning of Formal Technical Problem-Solving methodologies.
e. Promoting Discussion forums on HR, Finance, Supply Chain related topics along with local companies.
f. Improving the Skills of Employees with focused training.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list.
c) Wellness: Promoting Wellness can be done thru a variety of means. Some of them are as follows:
a. Conducting lectures by Doctors / Yoga Experts to address Physical / Mental / Emotional and Spiritual Health.
b. Conducting Health Camps
c. Weekly Wellness camps where Yoga / Zumba etc are practiced.
d. Health monitoring of Employees
e. Recognizing Role models in the area of Physical fitness
What is critical is to do these activities continuously and not as one time activity. Employees adapt these practices at their own speed.
d) Customer orientation: There are several practices that can help you move towards this objective:
a. Taking periodic feedback / Score from Internal Customers.
b. Internal Customers to have a say in the Performance evaluation of Internal Suppliers.
c. Recognizing Best Internal Suppliers by Internal Customers.
d. Publishing Great Customer service stories in the Company.
e. Inviting Senior Executives from other companies to tell Stories about Customer orientation.
Truly this area has enormous potential for innovation in promoting Customer orientation.
e) Contribution to Society: This is an area that you can use to activate the fourth Energy – Spiritual Energy of every Human (After Physical, Mental and Emotional Energies). Very powerful one. Some of the Practices that you can think of are:
a. Encouraging employees to form a group that contributes money, physical effort for Societal Causes of their choice.
b. Channeling the Company’s CSR efforts thru Employee groups.
c. Encouraging Stake holder Groups to participate in Public relief activities.
d. Helping the people in immediate surroundings of the Company.
Stake holders participating in these activities will have enormous satisfaction and they will be able to realize their higher energy.
f) Process Focus: It is very important to let a Process Culture prevail in your Company. Don’t focus on the Results always. Encourage your Stake holders to follow the process and have faith that the results will come. Some practices that can help you are:
a. Have a defined way of pursuing Goals in your Company that prescribes a good Process.
b. Measure the performance of a Stake Holder with Process Measures along with Results Measures. Having only Result Measures will push the Stake holders to somehow achieve results.
c. Promoting a ‘way of working’ in every sphere of the Company like New Product Development, Quality Process, Problem solving etc.
d. Reward People / Functions excelling in Process.
You can do the above and you can do more. Each company should find its’ own mix of Activities / Practices / Rituals / Celebrations that promote the Culture that you want in your Company.
But you SHOULD participate in the building of the Work Culture in your Company. Leaving the Culture building to a few strong personalities in your company that too accidentally is very Dangerous.
Catalyst: Volunteerism can be a Catalyst for Culture Building in a Company. Encouraging Employees to promote the activities that they can personally relate to can be very productive in furthering the Culture. Human beings can generate a lot of Positive energy when they connect to an activity where their heart lies. A Company should encourage this. The Positive energy they generate can be quite contagious!! Eg. Someone who is passionate about Social work should promote the Societal angle in your Company. You would be surprised to see how many of your Employees are interested in Social causes. I know many Youngsters earning just Rs 10,000 per month. But contributing to a Social cause every month!
Build the Work Culture in your Company Actively !!
For any Manufacturing Company, the Problem Solving is an important Business Process. The Company needs to give it a high priority and treat it as such. There needs to be specific Structure to handle this important Business Process.
Very few Companies in Indian Manufacturing treat this as an important process. If they do not give this importance, there would be a big adverse effect on the ability of the Company to progress. They would have serious problems with the Customers. There would be suffering on a daily basis for all concerned. This is a major reason for the tensions and stress in every Company. But still Companies are not able to put their finger on this issue and address it squarely.
Let me try and list down the issues that a Company needs to do to address Problem Solving in a systematic manner.
01. Capture all the Problems in a Company:Most of the Companies have records for the Customer Complaints / Rejections and Supplier Quality. They record this in a systematic manner. But they need to do this for Internal Quality Problems too. Usually there will be a bunch of phenomena that keep repeating in the Internal Process. They should record these Phenomena and count each one of them as another problem to solve. It is best if all the Problems so captured get in to ONE Problem Solving Software.
02. Problem Solvers: Every Company should identify Problem Solvers from across the Functions in the Company. In many Indian Manufacturing Companies, the Quality Function plays a major role in Problem solving followed by the R&D Function and Production Function. But it is required for a Company to involve Engineers from Materials, Process Engineering, Plant Maintenance also to be involved in the Problem Solving. The Company should identify the Engineers and designate them as ‘Problem Solving Ninjas’.
03. Develop the Ninjas: There has to be specific Development Plan for the Problem-Solving Ninjas. I covered their Development in a separate article earlier on 10/2/2019. You need to Grade the Ninjas in to Leaders and Members of the Teams. The Leaders would lead a Problem-Solving effort whereas the Members can become members in the Problem-Solving Team.
04. Decide the Problem-Solving Capacity of the Organization: Decide how many problems can each Leader handle at a time. This would decide the Collective capacity of the Organization to solve Problems. A Company needs to boost this up as needed from time to time.
05. Allot the Problems: The Problems that are captured in the ‘Problem Solving Software’ of the Organization needs to be allotted to the Problem-Solving Ninjas by the Software on the basis of a Logic. This would ensure that ALL the Problems are parked with one group or the Other.
06. Problem Solving Methodology: Each Company needs to adapt a Problem-Solving methodology that it prefers. It can adapt a Standard methodology like 8D or formulate its’ own methodology with Best Practices.
07. War Room: Every Company needs to have a War Room for Problem Solving. This is the Room that will host two types of meetings. One is a Review by Management. Second type is the Team meetings of the Teams. Normally a Schedule is kept for each team and every team would meet as per the schedule.
08. Meet Daily: If you want the Problem solving to improve in your Company, then every Team has to meet EVERY DAY for at least 45 minutes. If the teams do not meet and then you expect the Problems to get solved, it is not a reasonable expectation. The Team should meet every day and then solve the Problems. They need to spend as much time as is needed on the Shop-floor for Problem-Solving. This is a Primary requirement.
09. Measures of Problem Solving: How do you measure the success of Problem Solving in your Company? There can be two types of Measures. Process Measures and Result Measures. Result Measures are very clear. That would include your Customer Rejections / Complaints, Supplier Quality, In-Process Quality etc. The Process Measures would include the following:
a. Daily Meeting schedule adherence.
b. On Time Activity. Number of Activities planned vs done on a daily basis.
c. On Time Problem Solving. When each 8D is supposed to be closed and when it was closed.
d. Quality of Problem Solving. The 8D Check List score calculated by the team and certified by the Coach.
e. Repetitive Problems: If the Quality of Problems is good, the problems will not come back.
10. Problem Solving Coach: It would be very much required to have a Problem-Solving Coach who would help the teams to improve the Measures of Problem Solving.
11. Certifying the Problem Solvers: It would be useful to Certify the Problem solvers on the basis of their Knowledge, Skill and Results. The Certification should also lead to Rewards for the Problem Solvers. This would take care of Motivation of the Problem Solvers.
12. Approving Solutions: Company should authorize a few Senior people who would Certify the Solutions being implemented. This would ensure that the Collective wisdom of the Company is at work in Problem-Solving.
13. Use Technology to train the Ninjas: The Experience of the Senior People in the Company should be translated in to ‘Standard Check Lists’ for all known and repetitive problems. Using these Check lists E-Learning programs can be developed to train the Ninjas. For every known Problem, the Program would teach the standard steps that need to be taken to move towards the Solution. This would reduce the time taken to solve the Problem. This is a good way of using the Collective Experience that is available in the Company.
14. Managing the Knowledge Base: The Problem Solving in a Company can create enormous amount of Knowledge on Products of the Company and the Process of the Company. This knowledge needs to be captured in a Knowledge Data base and this Data Base can be used for:
a. Learning from Mistakes in Design/Process
b. Going back to the Solution in case the Problem reappears.
15. Problem Solving Conferences: The Company can think of conducting Problem Solving Conferences where the Problem Solvers from across the Company would converge and present the Technical papers about various issues in the Company and Best Problem Solvers may be rewarded. Usually the Company would invite Technical experts to this Conference to help teams to learn something more.
This way, the Manufacturing Companies can look at addressing Problem Solving as a special Discipline that cuts across Functions and look at developing this Competency in the Organization.
How well are you addressing Problem Solving in your Company?
We have been discussing about preparing for the advent of Industry 4.0 and how Indian Manufacturing Companies can prepare for the inevitable. We discussed how various Functions in a company can get ready for Ind 4.0 situation.
In this article, let us discuss about the Leader of the ‘Future Factory’. What are the Capabilities that a Leader of Future Factory needs to display?
A Future Factory will be characterized by the following:
- Definitely a Less Manpower environment.
- Highly Automated set up.
- Much higher Manufacturing Technology.
- Much higher Capacity in each Factory due to the automated set up.
What are the Competencies required for a Leader of this type of Factory?
I would say, he requires the following Six Competencies:
01. Analytical Capability: The Leader of Future Factory will have to be very comfortable with Data. He should be able to make sense of the Data and should be ready to use Data Analytics to make sense of the happenings around him/her and take actions. The typical situations that require him to show this capability can be as follows:
a. The Online Quality System in the Factory is throwing up a lot of Data about the Process status. The Analytics Software is showing a number of Patterns of Data. The Software is continuously learning (AI) and showing new meanings from the old Data. The Data analysis of last Six months just showed a Pattern that can be a Solution to the Biggest Customer Complaint that the company is having. The Quality Team has to be supported in understanding this data as it is the first time a new sense is being made from the old data.
b. The Zero Break down record in the Factory has to be maintained by managing the various Sub-systems in each of the Machines in the Factory. The Data from monitoring the Temperature, Vibration of various parts of the Machine has to be made sense of and Predictive Maintenance has to be improved.
c. The Software that the New Product Development team is using is throwing up lot of Analytics that can be used to Learn from the Development and apply learnings to the future products.
d. The Problem-Solving Software that is helping the Engineers to solve the Problems is capturing lot of interesting Data. This data has to be used to draw lessons for New Products.
e. Finally, SAP is being used more effectively. The Cost Data is getting generated as per each Activity. This data has to be analyzed to identify Wastes and eliminate them.
There can be myriad more ways in which the Data will be generated and will have to be interpreted.
The Factory Leader does not have to do all this job herself. But, She should be able to give Leadership to her Team to adapt this point of view.
02. System Builder: The Leader of the Future Factory has to be a great System Builder. Wherever he sees a Problem, he has to look at a System solution for it. If he Looks at solving the Problem for today, then the whole System can be short circuited by this problem and the Desired result will not be forthcoming.
Eg. In a Highly Automated Factory, the output from Dust Collector is Designed to be collected by a Pneumatic System and taken to a Dust Storage system. Now, when the Pneumatic System Breaks down due to Dust contaminating all the Seals / O rings in the system, the Factory has to look to alternative System that can withstand the Dust. If temporary solutions are looked at or if the Pneumatic system is kept idle and the factory goes back to manual collection of Dust, then very soon the Manpower will creep in and the inefficiencies will go up.
The Leader has to look at building a System around everything. He should be looking at Killing problems once and for all.
Eg. An Automated System is giving a problem handling some specific parts of the Company. While it is suitable to 75% of the parts of the Company, it is giving trouble handling 25% of the parts of the Company. The efficiency of the system is pulled down. Immediate Solution is needed for this problem. The Company set up a team to solve this problem while not reducing the efficiency of the whole System. Along with this, the Leader has to ensure that the Company learns from this experience and the next Factory has to take care of this problem from word go. The Design team also has to learn from this Process incident and ensure the future New Products are Designed to take care of this manufacturing aspect. The Leader has to ensure this at a total system level.
While these Qualities are required even in a less automated environment, the costs of not doing it are very high and can be lethal in an Automated / Ind 4.0 environment.
03. Avid Learner: The Leader of a future Factory has to Learn on her Feet. This can be a great challenge! The Learning is not just for her. She has to ensure the Learning is there at Organization level.
In the Future Factory, there will be a lot of Data just about everything. There will be Data Analytics team in the Factory and they will be throwing up a lot of Data and Interpretations.
The Leader has to encourage the Team to Learn from this Data. Otherwise there is no use of this Data.
Other than this Learning within the Factory, She also has to Learn from the outside world. She has to understand how the Customer is progressing in his Business and keep shaping up the factory to suit the Customer.
Eg. Customer’s Data Analytics may show that Demand for a particular product may be going up 3 months from now. The Factory Leader has to take this information, deal with it and also ensure that the Sales team is continuously picking up these cues from the Customer and help her shape the factory to suit it.
The Learning also has to cover the Ind 4.0 elements. The Factories across the World would be having new learnings from same elements almost on a daily basis. The Leader has to learn from the information available on the Public domain and she has to participate in suitable events like Technical Symposiums to keep learning from the environment.
Paid Factory Tours, Supplier Seminars, Industrial Exhibitions, Industry association events can be some sources for new Learnings.
Every Leader has to organize her own combination of events that will give her chance to pick up learnings from the relevant environment around her.
04. Integrator: This role can be part of ‘System Builder’ Role. But, as it is a very important function of a Future Leader, this is being discussed separately.
A Future Leader should be able to look at a Quality Problem and link it to the Machine, Manufacturing Process, Maintenance Practices, Improvement required in Design of the Product, the improvement required in designing the next Machine and how the factory has to work in future to avoid this Problem.
This is a very critical ability and not easy to master. It is not required that the Leader should be expert across the Board in all Functions. But, he should be able to see the linkages clearly.
The Future Factory would be working as one unit. The differentiation between one Function and the Other will disappear to a large extent. An Engineer would be required to have expertise across Functional areas as they exist today.
A Leader should be able to mold such Engineers!!
05. Team Developer: Factory of Future will be such that it will work as a unit or fail as a unit. Working partially will be difficult due to its connected / automated nature. One system depends on the other. So, if one System is not working it will affect the other.
The Team work and working as a unit are required much more than the non-automated environment.
The information between the various areas of the Factory has to flow seamlessly and the whole team has to deliver the result together.
Eg. The Shop Engineer (Who will handle Production, Quality, Maintenance) at each stage of Manufacturing has to interact with the Engineers at other stages and also interact with the Data Analytics Engineers (Who will be the new breed in every Factory) to make sense of the Factory performance and take actions on a daily basis.
The Leader of the Factory should develop his Team for a smooth daily interaction and ensure they work as a team.
06. Frugal Engineer: In the environment of highly automated factories, the difference between your Company and a Company in USA/Europe can totally be blurred as both the Companies will be having equally automated factories (may be same supplier of equipment too).
What can be the key differentiator for an Indian Company? If the Leader is a Frugal Engineer, he can help the company not to throw Big money at the Machinery. Spend just as much as is needed. Design the Product with just enough meat and don’t give away more than needed (Russian Designs are clearly out of fashion). If your Company can either make do with 75% of the Automation as in USA and give same output or if you are able to take 25% more output from the same Machinery as in USA, then you can have a leverage over other world Manufacturers.
In Future Factories, your competitor is not just the company in NOIDA. You will have to compete with the one in Detroit too.
India is having a very high number of Engineers. Not many Countries can match us in this. The Leader of Future Factory should be able to use the capabilities of these Engineers to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world in efficiency and money for each Rupee of investment.
These are some of the Capabilities for the Leader of a Future Factory! There can be more. Some or all of the above look like they are needed today too.
01. Many Leaders of Today Factories do not have these Capabilities. India is very big and we have too few Leaders with these Capabilities.
02. There is a subtle difference in the same Capability that is needed for tomorrow. I am sure you will notice in the above discussion.
Are you a Leader for the Future Factory?
There is a good buzz in the Indian Manufacturing Industry now about Digitalization and Industry 4.0. Every Managing Director would like to tell his/her colleagues at the Club about how they are implementing Digitalization in a big way and trying to implement Industry 4.0 and so on.
I hear many Functional Managers also trying their hand at collecting more data from machines. They are not very clear what exactly they want to do with that data. But, they have started a Project anyway.
This same companies are having modern Machine Tools that already collect a lot of data as a routine. Most of this data is not being used at all.
The other day I heard about a Machine Shop Manager who is collecting data about vibration on the tool holder on the Machine tool and trying to decide when to change the Tool. This is a smart local application. This Will definitely help the Manager to avoid Quality losses due to blunt tools running for more than their life.
But, these smart local applications are very few.
Irrespective of what they already have, Managers and Managing Directors across the Industry are in mad rush to get a tag of ‘We are implementing Industry 4.0’.
I see following problems in many of these companies rushing to ‘try Industry 4.0’.
01. Many Indian Manufacturing Companies have not yet implemented the Basic Lean Practices in their Shop floors.
02. The Pull principle is not being used. There are many companies that are still having Batch Production on their shop floor.
03. The Layouts are still archaic that necessitate unnecessary movement of material.
04. I have seen companies allowing excess Production as they do not want their workmen to be idle!!
05. There is no focus on the Skills of the Workmen. With the attrition problem on the Shop floor, this is a serious problem for the industry.
06. I know many companies that have not solved some perennial Supply issues and resultantly produce according to what material is available and not what Customer wants!
07. Wherever the Companies have installed Automated Machines and invested in to Technology, I have seen that the Company is having more problems with the Higher Technology machines. The Quality losses are higher in these machines, they breakdown more and over a period of time many of the wonderful features of these machines are by passed and it is used worse than its’ less Automated cousin that is co-existing.
This is not a complete list of problems. I am not saying there are no Companies that are not using Technology and Lean Principles. But, this is a very small percentage.
I see three issues from this situation:
a) Understanding Lean approach: Majority of Indian Companies have still not understood and leveraged the Lean Principles.
b) People element:We have not understood how to address the ‘People’ element when we bring in higher Technology. We need to help the person involved to ‘Work differently’.
c) Short term approach: We are still looking at this year results and many of us are worried about this Quarter performance and this Month’s performance. We continue to remain ‘Short Termish’!
While this is the status, there are some companies that are waking up as the Market Competition is increasing and they can’t simply tolerate the HUGE inefficiencies on the shop floor.
Every Company has to wake up!! If they are not woken up by the ‘Indian Competition’ then they will be woken up by the ‘International Competition’.
The Other Side
While this is the status of majority of the Companies trying to implement Industry 4.0, the Companies offering ‘Industry 4.0 solutions’ are also in the same Boat! While there are some International Companies like Siemens and a few of Local Companies that have understood how to use Industry 4.0 elements to take their clients to the next level, majority of the Companies offering the ‘Expert services of Industry 4.0’ do not know what they are talking about!
I have personal experience of talking to a few of these experts who have fancy websites calling out the World to implement Industry 4.0 with their help. Most of these Companies have not done anything in this area. Most of them do not know anything about Lean!
So, we have a very dangerous combination of Companies who are not ready for Industry 4.0 but want to implement it anyway! On the other side we have a big contingent of Companies who do not know anything about Manufacturing offering Industry 4.0 solutions. A lot of money is getting wasted around!!
How can we go forward?
It does not matter what the current status of the Manufacturing Company is, if they have understood the need to improve their efficiencies and the power of Lean then we can progress.
I would suggest that these companies take up a Re-Engineering of their Manufacturing that would involve the following:
- Put Three Year Targets like:
o Tripling People Productivity (Blue and White Collar Please)
o Cutting Quality Losses by 75%.
o Cutting Manufacturing Costs by 50%
o Solving 100% of Customer related problems permanently
You can formulate a few more Goals that are relevant to your company.
- Only a BIG target will wake up your Company and your team! You will achieve it!
- Formulate a Full Time Task force which can be filled with Young Engineers straight from College. Bring in technical experts as needed. But, having a positive mindset is more important than the Technology.
- There should be representation from every Function in this Task force.
- Educate their Employees on Lean Principles starting with the Top.
- Recast their Value Stream Map on the basis of Lean principles.
- Resolve the perennial problems like Material Shortages, Bad Sub-Contractors who do not deliver on time and so on, Perennial Quality Problems that have become as permanent in the company as the owner himself/herself!
- Formulate several Projects that should be championed by the Task force with help from the regular Teams.
- On the way at the right time, we should start educating the employees on Industry 4.0 and the Technology that is available.
- Visiting International companies to understand the Lean principles in action or Industry 4.0 in action is a very good idea.
- Implement Industry 4.0 elements as needed to achieve the Three year Goals. Finance Head should ensure that there is no Project that is being done just for the fancy of it. Every Project should pay back handsomely.
When you are achieving some BIG targets in 3 years, that will allow you to spend a good amount of money to achieve it. The problem of how to finance the Industry 4.0 Projects will be addressed.
So, you can turn your weakness of ‘Low Efficiency’ and ‘Not having implemented Lean’ in to something more positive as it would help you to spend good amount of money as you will get the payback relatively easier.
So, when will you start off?
Improve your Profits significantly and become a genuine implementer of Lean and Industry 4.0!!