What It Takes to Win
World class performance demands a company
strategy that embraces simultaneous quality and productivity
improvements that don't stop until perfection is reached. Since this
can only be achieved by people working together, it can't be
automated or programmed in a computer. It is a continuous process
that feeds on the synergism of human teamwork focused on satisfying
all of the customers price, quality, delivery and service wants.
Notice, I said wants, not what we might care to perceive as needs.
When I first learned about what the Japanese
called JUST-IN-TIME, or JIT, in the late 1970's, it addressed all of
those issues. Somehow, in the intervening years the experts managed
to fragment and distort the original meaning of that process to the
jumble of junk we have now. To a huge number of misinformed people
today, JIT is a quick delivery system foisted on an unsuspecting
supply base or an inventory management procedure.
Quality is promoted under various TQM labels
which ignore productivity concerns. (The goodness of quality will
not win customers at noncompetitive prices. In fact, Tom Peters now
believes that TQM is fatally flawed.) Team building has been
promoted as a way to create a mystical problem-solving, money-saving
force that can operate in a near-vacuum. (Such programs usually die
in a few years for lack of leadership from a disappointed
management.) Many of the JIT productivity elements, like group
technology cells, setup reduction and pull system cards, have been
implemented in isolation of one another, resulting in partially
effective islands of change. (A job shop full of partial cells is
hardly better than a job shop of functional departments. Neither
reaps the productivity advantages of JIT focused flow
manufacturing.) In fact, it's been fouled up so completely that I've
started calling the original strategy REAL JIT to differentiate it
from the smorgasbord that's out there today.
Whatever you call it (I encourage my clients to
make up a name of their own), the most important thing to remember
is that the winning process is like a good recipe. All of the proper
ingredients in the right proportions, properly blended and nurtured
in the right environment are necessary. If you decide to omit
something that doesn't appeal to you (We can't share that kind of
information with the employees.) or that you're afraid to try (Our
volumes are much too low to try mixed-model scheduling.), then
you won't get what you expected. But, whose fault is that?
The REAL JIT Recipe
First, you need a strategic envelope that will
guide all of the tactical decisions that will be necessary as you
move to world class performance. That strategy must simultaneously
encompass the essence of customer satisfaction: best quality, lowest
prices, fastest delivery and regal service. While tactical elements
can be implemented sequentially, the biggest mistake most companies
make is failure to adopt the total strategy up front. That's why I
use a coin to describe the JIT Strategy. It has two facets, the
productivity and quality sides, but the two are part of the same
whole and cannot be separated.
The productivity strategy requires that we
abandon the traditional approach of trying to out-guess the customer
to compensate for a slow manufacturing process and replace it with
an immediate response, build-to-order process. To do that, we have
to eliminate every wasteful, time-consuming practice and investment
in the business that doesn't add value for the customer to get truly
lean and mean. The ultimate goal is to produce one-at-a-time, in any
flavor with near-zero lead time. Obviously, this cannot be achieved
in one step, so the guiding principle for this strategy is one of
continuous improvement which, in turn, can only be accomplished by
the nurturing of all the human brainpower in the company. These
improvements will lead to the elimination of all the contingency
investments we've made, just-in-case something might go wrong.
Finally, because so much of our traditional approach to business has
been short-term oriented (as demonstrated by the instant-return
and break-through schools of wishful thinking), we must recognize
that this is a major cultural change to our company which can only
be achieved as part of an evolutionary, long-term strategy.
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