Ask the Experts - Nick Brandwood from the Manufacturing Advisory Service





Nick Brandwood from the Manufacturing Advisory Service on how manufacturers are getting it right.

In the past fourteen months, myself and other advisors for the Manufacturing Advisory Service, have met and helped over 1000 North West businesses. The help required has been extremely diverse – from fostering a more innovative way of working and new product ideas to reducing waste and operating in a greener way.

Many of these businesses really excel at what they do and demonstrate that British manufacturing is truly world class. On my travels I have recognized there are traits common to these companies; traits that almost herald excellence. I’m a statistician, I know that correlation is not causation and I’m not jumping to the conclusion that they are excellent through doing these things, however, they are excellent companies and they do them – so it’s probably worth a punt!

Schedule Stability

If you measure one thing - measure how often you change the schedule. This, of course, suggests that excellent companies have a stable schedule and review performance against it. If you are changing the schedule you are doing so because of variables out of your control: capacity fluctuations, machine breakdowns, quality problems, people issues, stock inaccuracies, supplier / customer reliability. In short, the more you change the schedule, the less you are in control. Review the changes, understand the reasons and identify the root causes. Then implement actions to tackle those root causes and increase the stability of the plan. Take control of your business!

Measuring Performance against target

In my experience, companies that review their monthly performance against target are better than those that don’t. Those that do it weekly and daily are better and better again. You can probably see where this is going – companies that have hourly targets and review performance against those targets and take actions to bridge the gap do tend to be excellent. They can scrutinise issues in real time and respond immediately, the quality of information is better, the quality of problem solving is better.

Daily Shop floor Reviews

If there is one thing that suggests I am in the presence of excellence, it is seeing white boards on the shop floor containing hand written daily performance measures. The previous section had regular measures against target as a prerequisite of excellence, however you are still not there without a mechanism for reviewing that information with the people. It’s always interesting to ask people “how do they know if they’ve had a good day or a bad day?” Quite often the answer is subjective and doesn’t relate to the performance of the business. I like the term “good day? bad day?” to describe these reviews and to reinforce objectivity– the objective being the daily measures of Quality, Cost and Delivery, did we hit our targets? If not –what are the actions? If so –what are the learning points? Excellent companies are visual companies too! Good days are green and bad days are red, everyone knows if the actions are working and the board is turning green. 10 minutes around the board, agreeing new actions and reflecting on the effectiveness of completed actions is a powerful way of engaging the people and creating a commonality of purpose around Quality, Cost and Delivery.

There are three key ingredients here in my recipe for excellence, they are in essence, though, three ways of saying the same thing. That thing relates to data and the process of turning that data into information that can be used to engage the people and create a consensus about the right things to do and the priority actions to take. Get that right and you’re already on that road to success!

Nick Brandwood is an Advisor for the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS),which provides a national service delivered locally by experienced advisors, who will help your business grow. For more information visit, email tweet him on @NickB_MAS or call 0845 658 9600

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