In manufacturing, change happens – rather you’re ready for it or not. Sometimes these changes are expected and sometimes not so much. There are many forces acting on the manufacturing system (or any business system for that matter). These forces create pockets of pressure and vacuums that ultimately result in disruptions to the manufacturing system if not handled effectively. There are many sources that these forces can emerge such as: corporate mandates, governmental mandates, personnel changes, competition activity, technological advancement, customer taste changes, new market pursuits, improvement events, etc. This list barely chips the iceburg. When the forces of change becomes strong enough in any direction, the manufacturing system has to have the agility to quickly adapt and sustain acceptable productivity levels. Change is risky but absolutely necessary; it is also unavoidable. With that said, how can a manufacturing system be in pursuit of perfection, when the system is in a constant state a flux? While I’m a huge proponent of Lean Manufacturing, the reality that the manufacturing system is in a constant state of flux highlights a limitation of Lean, which sometimes assumes that processes remain generally the same. It also exposes the urgency of Agile Manufacturing.
An effective Change Management System is essential in our pursuit of the perfect manufacturing system. This is based on the definition of a perfect manufacturing system being one that can sustain above 85% OEE, even under changes of any frequency and magnitude. This being a manufacturing system that is both Lean and Agile – or Leagile as some are now calling it. A Change Management System can help prime the organization for upcoming changes as to minimize disruption and avoid compromising any element of manufacturing execution. There are several critical components of any effective Change Management System:
1 – Change Tracking Log – This provides a database of past and future changes and allows effective prioritization. The log allows for changes to be spread out on the factory’s calendar so that non-critical changes can be scheduled around critical ones. The Tracking Log also helps to predict how upcoming changes will affect one another. Finally, the Tracking Log helps to identify which key stakeholders have signed-off on the change and which buy-offs are still pending.
2 – Change Management Communication – CM Communication provides the critical change information to the right people on a regular basis so that all stakeholders remain aware of what changes are coming down the pipeline. This helps leaders to predict how upcoming changes will impact their areas of accountability and allows them time to take steps to prepare. The CM Communication could occur in the format of a weekly meeting, emails, publishing printed documents or whatever works best within the context of your manufacturing environment.
3 – Risk Assessment – This is a process that provides a safe format for all key stakeholders to assess risks and voice their concerns about an upcoming change. The Risk Assessment also provides a platform to collaborate on any mitigating actions needed to sustain acceptable business performance.
4 – Key Stakeholder Buy-offs – Stakeholder Buy-offs allow key stakeholders the opportunity to approve or dis-approve on the quality of execution of the agreed-upon mitigating actions from the Risk Assessment. Depending on how your CM System is designed, the owner of the change will likely have the obligation to provide as much evidence as needed to validate effective execution of mitigation actions. This could include test results, photos, training sign-off sheets, or any other form of proof.
5 – Change Management Review Process – The CM Review Process is a step to ensure the integrity and Continuous Improvement of the CM process itself. Its possible to develop CM metrics to measure the team on the effective execution of the CM process. For example, one metric could measure if the change owner obtained 100% of required sign-offs before the change actually took place. Another could measure the delta in OEE% for a process following the implementation of a change.
Implementing an effective Change Management System is an initiative in itself. Just like any initiative, its success or failure depends primarily on the discipline of its leaders to see it through even when others have not bought in. An effective Change Management System can be a tremendous asset for people on all levels in the factory and the company at large. It provides a systematic way to drive the changes that need to be made. So if you’re an operator on the plant floor, you can use the CM System to initiate a change for much-needed improvements in your production area. Likewise, the Plant Manager can use the CM System to ensure team engagement and support before engagement. Additionally, in the most Agile organizations, CM Systems are used company-wide to affect changes initiated across different business units such as Marketing, Sales, Distribution, Finance, or other.
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