When Its Smarter to Hire Consultants in Manufacturing

Manuficient - Man Thinking

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.

© Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How Training Enriches the Soil for a Culture of Operational Excellence

Training - Freeway Exit Sign

In business, we make guarantees. We guarantee excellent quality, world-class service, and competitive prices. We need to make guarantees because are customers need to know that we will deliver, and they deserve that peace of mind. This allows our customers to place their focus on other important things.

The ability to deliver to those guarantees is a matter of integrity. However, businesses are made up of a system of imperfect people, machines, and processes. How can a business make guarantees to their customers on one end, and on the other end be riddled with so much imperfection? The answer is in the the design of the business system. If you were to read a company’s mission statement, and it says, for example, that they will make products of unparalleled quality, then you should be able to audit their business system to determine if it is truly capable of delivering to that standard. Although the goal of any business system should be to eliminate the opportunity of failure of delivering what is guaranteed to the customer, the execution of the business system is often heavily reliant on people. That’s right – imperfect people.

This is where training enters the stage. Training is defined (by Google of coarse) as: “the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior.” In this case, the desired behavior would be to effectively execute the business system or designated process within the system. Training helps imperfect people to become more perfect; at least at a specific thing. An effective training program ensures that people have the capability to execute the business system according to what the business has guaranteed the customer.

There are four primary categories to an effective training program:

  1. Standard Operating Procedure Development and Management
    1. Entails documenting critical system and procedural knowledge and making sure that they remain current and complete
    2. Ensures that all Standard Procedures are readily accessible to relevant personnel
  2. Training Execution & Records
    1. Ensures that trainees know and understand what is needed for effective system execution
    2. Tracks who has been trained on what content
    3. Helps to ensure that gaps in training are closed in a timely manner
  3. Validation of Learning
    1. Provides immediate verification that sufficient learning has been achieved
    2. Validates that learning has been retained and has been put into operational practice
  4. Change Management
    1. Ensures cross-functional buy-in to pending process changes
    2. Supports the sustainment of good practices and desired behaviors

Business systems (especially in manufacturing) are constantly evolving creatures. In a culture of continuous improvement and operational excellence, the manufacturing process, procedures, and knowledge requirements change almost daily. A training program that is capable of delivering the right knowledge to the right people at the right time; than ensures that the capability is acquired and is put into action; is essential to drive out operating costs and sustaining strong performance. Often times businesses start their continuous improvement initiatives without having a solid foundation such as an excellent training program in place. They quickly learn how frustrating it can be to make brilliant process changes only to have them undermined by poor training and people development. Implementing an effective training system is an initiative within itself; but it is essential to optimizing the performance of your most powerful asset; your people.

How robust is your training program? How is it impacting your ability to sustain or improve business performance? Reach out to us to assess what can be done to improvement the integrity of your training systems.

© Calvin L Williams blog at calvinlwilliams.com [2015]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Calvin L Williams with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.