1) Cash flow was always tight for an electrical systems manufacturing company. Typically, they would be involved in two to five small to medium sized projects at a time. Timescales were always short, especially towards the end of a project. When one project was complete, the next would follow hard on its heels. There was no time to stop for a moment and review completed projects, what worked, what didn’t work, and did we achieve the margin expected. Trends were analysed and project reviews were introduced, especially for projects that didn’t achieve target margin. This helped the company to capture key learning points and take actions. Some of these were quite simple, such as making sure invoices were accurate. Others required more work, such as freezing designs and introducing version control of wiring diagrams. Taking time out from hectic schedules was well worth it, though, as average margins improved by 5% over the next 18 months.
2) An electronics company was forever being let down by its suppliers, with key components arriving late for the assembly line. Many anxious calls were being made to chase up the whereabouts of much needed deliveries. However, a quick analysis of the situation unearthed some interesting trends. The main source of delay was actually in house. This was due to all purchasing requisitions having to be authorised by the Financial Controller, a family member. The requisitions sat in a tray outside the Financial Controller’s office, often for several days. When the root cause was highlighted, they moved to authorisation levels and spot audits to balance the financial control needs with the need to simplify and speed up raw material supply.
3) A large utilities company invests a lot of time in training field engineers. How effective was this training? They do monthly audit spot checks on the work of the Engineers. Mistakes are picked up and corrective actions taken, but the trends weren’t analysed. Once this was introduced they could link the results back to the training, discuss the findings with the trainees and adjust the training courses as needed.
All companies need to create time to review their activities, no matter how hectic their world. It’s not really a time issue, it’s a question of priorities, and “review” has to be elevated in the priorities. As Deming would say, the need to Plan-Do-Check-Act is vital. Just like this article, plan it, write it, review it, send. Oops just found a typo.
If you struggle to find the time to make tomorrow better, please get in touch via www.pathfinderassociates.co.uk