We sometimes hear manufacturers say they’ve tried Lean or Six Sigma or any of the other continuous improvement processes before and “got nothing from it” or saw little in the way of results. These are proven methodologies that, when correctly implemented, will provide the company with a noticeable improvement in waste reduction and cost. PolymerOhio Manufacturing Solutions combines several of these methodologies into a complete system that we call Operational Excellence (OpEx).
What makes OpEx and all other continuous improvement methodologies work is that they are comprised of a series of projects—a complete system—that produces a noticeably improved operation over time. Simply embracing the concepts of the system and implementing only the projects that appear to matter most to your company will fail to produce any significant results. OpEx is not designed to be a quick fix; it is designed to correct the underlying issues that have caused the need for quick fixes.
One of the reasons that a company might not see their desired results from a continuous improvement program is because they either abandon it too soon or they decide that their operation only needs a few of the steps in the OpEx system. Let’s think of OpEx as a machine, with each step within it being a screw that holds the machine together. It stands to reason that to leave out a few of the screws could easily make the entire machine fall apart. At the very least, it wouldn’t run nearly as well or as smoothly as it would with all of its screws in place. In order to see the best results from a continuous improvement program, a company must commit to every step of the process—they must use all of the screws.
A company may also fail to see significant results from an OpEx program simply because they haven’t put all of the recommended process changes into place. Continuous improvement programs will identify the processes within a company that need to be changed and recommend new ones that should be implemented, in essence “streamlining” a company’s processes. If the company and its employees don’t follow through on all of the recommendations, the company won’t see ideal results and will assume the program has failed.
So how do you get your OpEx program off to a good start and ensure that your company will attain the end result of a more efficiently run operation? Seeing positive results sooner rather than later builds morale and confidence for the team and it generates enthusiasm about what the entire OpEx program can accomplish. A big key to accomplishing this is to develop a culture of sustainability, where your business is able to celebrate frequent victories—or “quick wins”.
The right projects provide quick wins
Quick wins come when you select projects with goals that deliver observable accomplishments to the greatest number of employees. Use visual tools like the Pareto chart to identify which projects will give your company the greatest “bang for your buck”. Also ensure that your projects align with your corporate strategies and show that your company is moving from a current state to a desired future state.
If your project is a larger one, it may take some time to see measurable results. Keep the scope-of-work tightly focused and provide quick wins by breaking the project down into a series of smaller, easier-to-achieve steps. Each step will then provide value while still showing progress toward the final objective. Breaking it into smaller projects also allows you to involve more employees.
Keeping your projects simple and focused results in producing more quick wins in the shortest timeframe, which in turn maintains your team’s enthusiasm and the company’s continuous improvement culture. There are any number of projects you might consider that fit the bill, such as standardizing process changeovers to reduce downtime and waste while simultaneously improving quality and capacity. Or you might break down a larger ISO initiative into several simple and focused projects designed to improve your Quality Management System.
Expert Guidance to help
If you’re unsure of where to start, PolymerOhio Manufacturing Solutions has the experts and experience to guide your organization through a successful continuous improvement process. We can help you more quickly reach your objectives by looking at your organization from an outsider’s point of view. We can ask the “hard questions” that stimulate thinking and start conversations, encouraging employees to think about their operation in ways they may not have before. Contact us to explore how PolymerOhio Manufacturing Solutions can help you improve your operation’s profitability, efficiency and culture.
Greg brings over 30 years of manufacturing experience to PolymerOhio.He is a mechanical engineer and has run his own privately owned manufacturing business as well as helped other companies in their quest to become more effective at what they do. In his earlier career, he worked for E.I. DuPont where he gained his love for the chemical and polymer industry, machine design, automation and electrical controls. Greg is very hands-on and he brings a holistic perspective to what it takes to run a manufacturing operation in today’s challenging business environment. He understands the up-stream as well as the down-stream pressures that business operators face today and uses those skills to help clients solve manufacturing and operational problems that they face.
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