Written By: Malcolm Newman – KCTS Consultant
Delivery: On Time and In Full: But At What Cost?
New Product Introduction: Delivery Crisis was a Major Threat to Business.
I have just spent three days helping out a client with a serious delivery crisis due to the introduction of several new products for a major customer. They are a medium sized component manufacturer with a good reputation, experienced team of people and a range of technologies.
I will not go into how they got into the situation but it was the usual production headache; design, late changes, equipment, tools and methods are …. Well let’s say for this particular component they just don’t work! “The customer has launched the product and demand is better than plan;” said Plant Manager David. “I just have to deliver!’. But at what cost!”
When I arrived the team had been working all hours trying to get parts out the door. They had an agreed minimum quality sample. The customer needed 400 per day but Kev, one of the best operators could make only 1 piece every 2 minutes and only 60% were good enough, nobody else could do the job. Roughly speaking he needed to work 22 hours a day!
This was over and above the regular busy schedule of the normal business. The team; managers, engineers and operators were exhausted.
This is where the consultant has the advantage. Focused on the single issue with no axe to grind I could see the issues clearly. First action was to draft a plan. A plan that would stabilise the situation to keep the customer satisfied, return the operation to normality and save the team from certain failure and personal breakdown.
In these situations I find the solution lies in foundation tools. Standardisation, Standard Operating Procedures and Systematic Training work effectively to achieve the necessary results. We needed to develop a Standard Operation and then train people to the same skill as Kev – he is good but not superhuman.
To carry out a detail task analysis, draft SOP, test and verify them with any team is a challenge; with a team that is at breaking point working against the clock you have to be confident of your plan and processes.
Within the first day I had enough detail to start training an operator from the next shift, building their skill and confidence to be close to Kev’s quality. A second operator was trained so now we were starting to see progress; enough for the exhausted managers to go home and get some sleep.
By the following day we had two operators on all three shifts able to work to the quality standard and the reject rate was improving as their skill developed.
Now the parts were flowing to the customer so everyone was a bit more relaxed.
With the situation stabilised I could start on the improvement work. The current method worked but at a high cost. Now that everyone was a little calmer I could use the team to eliminate waste and get the process flowing. Within 2 days we had developed the methods and standardised procedures to be better than the original cost estimates.
Before I left I reflected with David who was still badly bruised by the experience. They had the tools and procedures in place and used them regularly. Why when under pressure do we throw away the procedures that ultimately save us? He still has a great deal to do in understanding the root cause of this crisis and putting in countermeasures to avoid a repeat; but that is another story.
Until the next time!