Operational Excellence

Aligning OpEx with Sales
It’s an old cliché that speaks volumes when a company finds it has a lack of initiative alignment: “The Sales Department makes promises to customers that production cannot meet.” The salesperson lives to make a sale by meeting and exceeding a customer’s needs but setting a false expectation can really burn the brand and future sales. As the sales department is normally the most customer-facing and a less controllable process than most of the other parts of a company’s processes, we will discuss alignment from the point of view of the Sales department as the “point of the spear” in most revenue based initiatives. Getting In Line: Sales Alignment Lack of initiative alignment usually happens for a variety of reasons. Even though most of those reasons are obvious, companies still violate the proper process needed for goal alignment and developing productive collaboration between various departments integral to the success of…
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“In just 30 days, profits increased by $50,000.” Management articles are almost always about problems. But, this real-life event showcases how problems can be turned into opportunities. Owners and top-level management can sometimes be held captive by their limited experiences and training. However, there are many enlightened leaders who understand there is always something to learn. Indeed, learning from the mistakes of others is a wise strategy, but too often ego gets in the way. Until there is acceptance of a problem and a resolution to fix the problem can real learning take place. The following is a true story that demonstrates how education can quickly turn a problem into a long-term tool for success. The Business Problem A Chicago, Illinois-based steel fabricator, supplying a global market with wire product displays,  store fixtures, point-of-purchase (POP) displays, and custom wire frameworks, realized their profits were trending negatively. They had tried a…
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Bob Flynn
Private equity portfolio companies face aggressive goals when they try to expand their business in short-time frames. With acquisitions thrown into the mix, there is added complexity and risk. The projects to accomplish these growth and integration initiatives require dedicated resources and your best resources who are already spread too thin end up being over-utilized. The best strategy is to find experienced, specialized, interim resources that you can rely on, and have them available on demand. A key area of focus is to have a strong Project Management Office with enough project management talent and project management professionals, and a great process to drive your strategic initiatives. Plan ahead, form these relationships now with strategic staffing and talent companies. Make sure these companies and their team can deliver the breadth and depth of talent required, especially in terms of industry expertise and functional knowledge. Oftentimes, it takes weeks to find…
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Karl Rickman
Most companies don’t understand the effort that it takes to become a Lean company. They all want to be world class but they all want somebody to do it for them, not with them. I constantly get “that doesn’t work for me” or “We don’t have deep pockets like Toyota”. They want to do the same things but expect different results. I’ve heard a million time, “Karl that doesn’t work for me, I tried that!” It amazes me how many of my foreign customers with limited budgets roll up their sleeves, works hard and just “Do It!” It has to start from the top, to get results it’s all about who participates and holds their management accountable. Important things to understand: 1) You have to grasp the situation. 2) You need a clearly communicated vision and targets. It is best for management to be part of setting these targets. 3)…
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Doug Sartain
It’s important to keep your drivers happy and your fleet happy as this infographic about the high cost of employing (and losing) a truck driver shows. Here’s how I help fleets perform and maintain loyalty: Make the driver part of the solution, and not part of the problem. I ask drivers for their input on what the company can do better. When they have an idea, I run with it as long as it does not negatively affect a customer, company policy, cost control, safety etc. I always say, “I will let a driver win a battle as long as the company wins the war”. So even if I do not agree with the idea, I will implement it as long as it is not detrimental. If the idea works, I let everyone know which driver thought of it. You can never take credit for an idea that is not…
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Hands of a formally dressed man chained together
The biggest challenge I encounter in achieving supply chain excellence is that many organizations believe they are powerless when it comes to working with their suppliers.  The typical beliefs I encounter are: “we aren’t big enough to have any leverage”, “we can’t control what our suppliers do”, and “implementing a Lean supply chain will increase our costs”.  Interestingly, most organizations feel the same way toward managing their customers as well.  It is this victim mentality that prevents many companies from achieving operational excellence. The root cause of these limiting beliefs usually comes down to two critical factors: 1) not fully understanding what a Lean supply chain actually is, and 2) not understanding how to “sell it”, in other words, how to demonstrate how it will help the supplier to be more competitive and then use that as part of the negotiating process. To overcome these limiting beliefs, I focus on…
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businessman writing Supply Chain and drawing some sketches
My perspective is that obstacles to supply chain operational excellence occur in business when there is a lack of alignment between people’s measure of success.  In most organizations communication is a fundamental area that almost always requires work and improvement. In those undergoing significant change this comes to light and is amplified, creating confusion and other feelings that often get in the way of the improvement process.  Ensuring that the entire value stream is aligned and that ownership is established with a minimum of silos is critical to success in achieving operational excellence, not just improvements. I like to refer to what we most often experience in this regard as “islands of success in a sea of waste”.  Unless there is alignment which is often associated with Hoshin Kanri or Strategy Deployment, there will be a lot of good work that can go to waste because of the communication and…
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Business team testing virtual reality headset in meeting
Ron Crabtree The concept of 5S, which is a methodology to reduce waste through a rigorous approach to workplace organization and cleanliness has five steps that loosely translate as Sort, Setup, Scrub, and Shine, Standardize and, finally, Sustain. Until recently, it never really occurred to me that the concept of 5S could be extended creatively to improving processes that have absolutely nothing to do with physical organization. Joann Parrinder is a co-author of our book Driving Operational Excellence and has written a very interesting chapter in it titled “Lean Thinking Applied to Your Idea Development [Life]cycle.” Joann, glad you could join me. Joann Parrinder Thanks, Ron. I’m glad to be here. Let me give you a bit of my background. I have about 15 years of program and project experience and I’m PMP certified in project management. I like to build things, so my projects have primarily been in the…
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Team Of Engineers Having Discussion In Factory
Ron Crabtree We’re going to touch on something near and dear to our hearts in any kind of a business setting. Specifically, identifying an illuminating the sources of business waste. It is my pleasure here to introduce to you in a moment another of the authors of the book, Driving Operational Excellence, Mr. Gary Wickett. In Chapter 14, Gary takes a refreshing look at practical ways to think about waste and a very pragmatic and simple approach to smoking out the true root causes of systemic and process wastes. I like Gary’s chapter so well I included it as reading for the Michigan government process re-engineering program I recently developed and delivered. One of the things I particularly liked about Gary’s chapter is he makes it specific to the service providing industry. He uses a fantastic case study in applying these techniques, so no matter what it is you do,…
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7 Stages of Becoming a Disruptor
The word disruption is so overused in business it threatens to become jargon which is never a positive fate for a term as important as this one. The people overusing the word and jargonizing it are usually using it wrong. If you understand what it means precisely, takes the following six points seriously to heart and do what you do best — much more aggressively — you can transform your organization into a disruptor. The Actual Definition of Disruption Disruption: something that changes the game entirely. In business, it’s a product or service that has a staggering effect on events, activities, processes, and people in a marketplace. It’s what happened to the world when regular people could buy cars, radios, televisions, VHS players, cell phones — commodities that changed the way we live our lives, and that we had never had before. It’s what happened when we could go online…
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