Tag Archive: service levels

Plan the Work; Work the Plan

June 21st, 2016
from planning to execution

Oftentimes we spend countless hours planning a project with details, responsibilities and timelines, only to forget to work the plan. Once a plan is done, refocus your energy to execution.

We were reminded of this favorite client project and success story related to work processes recently as we were talking with a new GM at a key client about ways to improve service levels rapidly. It reminded us to pay attention to what “works”.

So many clients try complicated and convoluted programs, thinking it is required for success, but it isn’t! Why go down that rabbit hole when simplicity can achieve rapid, bottom line results?!

This particular favorite project made the list due to its simplicity and quick results in the face of quite a bit of doubt and several previous failed attempts to resolve along the way. Who doesn’t love a great underdog story?

In this case, there was one area within the manufacturing process that held up the vast majority of the customer orders. The bottleneck was obvious; thus, identifying it wasn’t the issue! Unfortunately, solving it proved elusive. What worked was simplicity — plan the work; work the plan. Not rocket science but it reduced 80% of the past due within 2 months’ time in a long lead-time, aerospace industry manufacturer.

As with every success, it wouldn’t have occurred if the GM hadn’t supported the plan and made the priority clear. Once the plan and production schedule was communicated, the sole focus was to prepare for and execute the plan. Thus, instead of not having the right skills available at the right time, we knew we’d run into this issue ahead of time, and we proactively resolved it.

And the next 100 items like this fell by the wayside as well. Manager’s attention was redirected to this bottleneck. If the team needed help, the management team would jump to action. Soon, the bottleneck freed up and orders started shipping. Eventually our #1 customer went from being “off the charts” in negative territory to regaining bronze level status. I personally remember this as one of my favorite accomplishments as getting these long-term numbers up consistently over many months to bring the status level up was a TALL order — and great to see!

Are you so far into the weeds that you miss these sorts of obvious solutions? It is easy to do. Instead, take a step back, simplify, execute & succeed.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

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The Value of Process Flows

July 21st, 2015
process flows

Being a systems pragmatist is critical in not making assumptions about your processes, but rather review every production step to uncover any issues that were not being addressed.

When the idea of The Systems Pragmatist service line popped to mind, I was thinking about the critical importance of systems and processes. I had just left a strategy session with the former head of HR from Cisco, and she gave me a new respect for the value of process flows. Previous to that session, I saw them as just an assumed part of the process. It was great to gain a new appreciation for one of my strengths!

Thus, I thought I’d share the value of process flows. As much as we think we know our processes, we don’t. I’ve yet to find a situation where we didn’t learn something by creating and documenting process flows. For example, while working with a client on production scheduling, the supervisors and managers thought they knew what was being scheduled and the process to schedule it; however, they didn’t. When we documented the production schedule and associated processes, we found several scheduling issues no one was addressing. This simple finding led to dramatic improvements in service levels as we could better identify root causes.

Lately, I’ve been working with several clients to design and implement SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) programs as it is a great way to align all functions of the organization on one plan that also balances demand with supply. We recently developed process flows to support the demand and supply processes, and it was enlightening.  At a minimum, it provided clarity to the process steps and accelerated our progress because it facilitated communication and collaboration.

Process flows provide clarity in several respects: 1) Which direction the process flows. 2) Who is responsible for the process step. 3) Whether a decision is required. 4) The sequence of process steps. 5) A visual representation of the process.

Contrary to popular opinion, process flows do not have to be complex. Although Visio creates perfect process flows, it does not have widespread use. In the SIOP example above, we went down the simple path and created them in Excel.  Being fancy isn’t essential and can add complications. Consider what will facilitate communication, collaboration and aid in achieving results. Simplify and focus exclusively on what will provide value.  

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

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