Every now and then we’re lucky enough to experience an event that has the potential to completely shift the culture of an organization. Many times the event will be painful, but if the opportunity is recognized it can be leveraged to create dramatic improvements.
We recently experienced such an event at a local company. Manufacturing cycle times were traditionally around two weeks, with the total customer lead time being roughly six weeks. A large part of the lead time was simply documentation and issues processing in a regulated high tech materials processing industry. We knew that true value-added lead time was a small fraction of the total, and improvement was slowly being made.
Along comes a key customer with an urgent phone call… they needed parts now to keep their production lines running, and were praying we could help. We realized that if we could make this customer happy it could lead to additional business, therefore we told them we would do whatever we could.
Troops were marshalled and everyone was informed of the urgency of this new order… at 10am. Documentation was expedited, process lines were shifted over, the product was run, finished, and inspected, and it shipped to the customer that evening. Eight hours later.
The customer was thrilled, and appropriate kudos were lavished on everyone involved. But think about what really happened:
The typical six week customer lead time became eight hours!
Achieving this was painful… by the end of the day there were a lot of frayed nerves, tired folks, previously planned production that had to be rescheduled, and documentation issues to resolve. But the underlying issues that created a drag on the processes were brought to the surface for everyone to see. Visible processes can be analyzed and improved.
And the potential for the business became visible… "same day shipment". All the expectations of Lean… extremely short cycle times, no waste, value from the perspective of the customer. The joke of saying "tomorrow" when asked when an order would ship, thinking it would take a few weeks, was no longer a joke… it was an actual possibility. The competitive advantage of having a same day shipment capability is enormous.
There’s a long ways to go before same day shipment becomes normal operating procedure, but now there’s a visible objective, previously seen as impossible, that may be attainable. With support and encouragement a very significant cultural change will have occurred.
Think about the trials and tribulations your current operations are experiencing. How can they be leveraged to achieve excellence?