In manufacturing, product is the endgame.
Technology, talent, and systems -- even the physical building itself -- all work together to produce a quality, final product as fast as possible.
To which, it makes perfect sense that manufacturing experts tout the importance of systems in creating quality products.
Product was the topic at hand in the fourth and final installment of the 2021 People, Process, Product: 3P Approach to Total Manufacturing webinar series. The series, co-hosted by manufacturing experts from the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center - West (The Center West) and MiBiz, focused on implementing 3P best practices for small and mid-size manufacturers.The 3P system advocates for working on the business rather than in the business by , streamlining functions, improving profitability, increasing efficiencies and other process improvements.
In this last installment, Tom Benedict, president of Grand Rapids-based Lynn Consulting Group discussed the importance of establishing systems and routines to produce quality products.
“You don’t get paid for the certificates on the wall,” Benedict said during the webinar. “You get paid for product that is shipped to your customer. You need to understand that the product needs to meet a value proposition to your customer. It needs to be a good product that meets their expectations and requirements. It needs to be on time. And you need to sell it as close to free as possible. That’s the true purpose of your business ... to meet the value proposition of that customer.”
And it is carefully orchestrated routines that create those products. Benedict likened it to the difference between baseball and ballet. The fun of baseball comes from the unknown outcome of the game -- either team could win. By comparison, a ballet is a series of choreographed moves, practiced over time until it is perfected and the outcomes of a performance are predictable.
“You want to run your business like a ballet where you have the routines you’ve practiced over and over again,” Benedict said. “Then when it comes time to perform, you just go out and perform the routine.”
UNDERPINNED BY STANDARDS
Positive routines are established through standards, both external standards created by industry groups and regulators -- such as ISO9001 -- and internal standards developed within an organization.
“You can’t write a standard that fits every company,” Benedict said of industry standards. “Your company standards are the ones that drive the methodologies for how you meet these requirements or your routines. There’s a lot of talk about the Toyota way. What you’re really doing with your company standards is you’re making your own company production system or your own company way.”
Internal standards can include the process for setting up a machine on the shop floor. They don’t need to be written, however they only work when employees know and follow the routines. Benedict encouraged companies to construct their routines understanding that they should change overtime to adapt to the business.
UNDERSTANDING EXTERNAL STANDARDS
External industry standards are determined through auditors who evaluate manufacturers’ systems and determine if they fit certain criteria. However, meeting those criteria doesn’t necessarily mean the company is successful.
“Because they want you to feel like you’ve gotten value from the audit, they’re going to drive you to improve, no matter where you’re at in your system,” Benedict said. “Your systems will evolve over time, based on what your auditor is pushing you to do.”
Still, Benedict cautioned against taking the standards as the unquestionable truth. What an auditor is pushing a manufacturer toward, may not actually be the best for that particular business, he noted. Benedict mentioned occasions of auditors advising companies to require their managers to sign and date a written form during a product launch, confirming their approval of the process. However, that may not make sense for every business, particularly those who offer remote work options.
“As a business leader, you have to make those business decisions with the auditors,” Benedict said. “Do these changes make sense or do they hinder the efficiency and effectiveness of our business? The goals of the systems are to make those routines better. If the change recommended by the auditor doesn’t do that you have to push back.”
Regardless of industry, implementing routines structured around a manufacturer’s specific business is key to producing quality products over the long-term. Those routines should evolve as business and technology change, yet should always be tuned into the culture of the organization and practiced consistently. In the end, producing quality products is ballet, not baseball.