Its time to change, either because you need to, or you just want to. You need to reduce operating costs to free up working capital to invest in marketing. Your leading competitor just went out of business and you need to increase throughput levels to meet a rapidly expanding customer base. You’re starting up a new product line and need to know the optimal manufacturing model. Your raw material costs are inflating and you need to get costs back in control to increase your profit margin. You need to know what something “should-cost” to make or buy…the list of possibilities are endless. In business, there are always problems that need to be solved. These problems come in all degrees of scale and complexity. Some of them can be handled by your internal team and some not so much. There are mainly three situations when its smarter to hire consultants to help you get something done:
1) You don’t have time to do it yourself. Your internal team is stretched thin with their current responsibilities. Business systems like to operate in a steady and predictable environment. Unfortunately, the world outside of the 4-walls (and sometimes inside) of a manufacturing facility is very unpredictable. When problems arise, management level work demands surge. As a manufacturing leader, you need to determine how you’re going to deal with the surge in demand. You can tax your current team, which works to an extent but can disrupt your business system, especially if you’re already running with a lean organization. You can just ignore the problems and hope they go away. Or you can bring in consultants to help capture the opportunities at hand. You can expect a consultant to work at least twice the speed of your employees, and be happy to do it. Aside from a few meetings and data requests, you can also expect the consultant to work fairly autonomously to get a full understanding of the problem, potential solutions, and sometimes not-so-obvious opportunities abound. Additionally, hiring consultants for some services alleviates you from the management burden of hiring and maintaining an employee.
2) You don’t have the expertise in-house. Its just not realistic to expect to have 100% of the expertise needed to effectively run a manufacturing operation. Some knowledge or skill sets will only be needed less than 3% of the time; and sometimes just once ever. Other times, your internal team may have a good grasp on the subject but not to the extent needed to produce the quality of results you need at that time. For instance, if you want to implement a world-class continuous improvement process, chances are that your internal team has not seen very many world-class operations (if any) in practice. Consultants are in the unique position to have served many clients and often have an array of best-in-class techniques and methods for you to incorporate.
3) You need an objective perspective. Within any organization, there exists varying degrees of internal politics. Underneath the surface, everyone is competing for a larger share of the company’s spoils. This comes in the form of bonuses, pay raises, stock, promotions, or just having more say over what gets served at the company picnic. Because of this, everyone operating within the confines of the organization has a personal agenda. As such, all employees look at the situation from their own perspective, which is influenced by alliances, past hurts, and personal ambition. All of these things cloud your employees’ judgement and blind them to opportunities that would otherwise be very obvious. A consultant who has seen many manufacturing operations and who is not embedded in to the internal politics can help develop unbiased solutions and see opportunities that everyone else is conditioned not to see.
Combining the objective perspective with a high degree of expertise and a high workload capacity, a consultant can often provide you with very high quality solutions in a much shorter time-frame placing minimal strain on the existing business system.
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