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Change Management

PART VII. 

 

The direction to the teams from the steering committee was to simplify everything. Initially, there were only a few people in the company who recognized the need for change. This evolved into a group that explored the concept of group technology where a workcenter would be made up of different fabrication equipment required to complete a finished part. This concept was initially laughed at as being impossible to accomplish. Comments like "it just can't be done that way" were common. It was clear that a concerted effort of R&D for materials, Engineering for processes and equipment and Manufacturing for planning and control would be necessary to win even a single battle!

The group evolved into the steering committee and elected to pursue an offensive strategy. Offense minded leaders try to be the first movers, to build a competitive advantage and a solid reputation as a leader. The key to staying on the offensive is the relentless pursuit of continuous improvement and innovation. This translated into efforts focused on designing new products better and faster; improving quality and customer service, reducing production costs and establishing a program to continually reinvent critical processes. In each area we used benchmarks from outside the company to set "stretch" goals to avoid complacency. This also kept the committee looking forward to the risks of the next tactic or action rather than backward at rivals on the defensive rambling to catch up.

Our steering committee decided that the first major front in the war would be a move to continuous flow manufacturing. This would provide a graphic, understandable model of the type of change the entire company would ultimately need to experience. The goal was to change from a plant organized by functional departments to one that was focused around similar products, such as the Perma-Shield Casement product line. Previously, material had to flow great distances through the factory. In this environment it became very complex and difficult to control costs.

Beginning with a single subplant, the conceptual vision for the layout, processes, organization and skills required was created. This was then implemented in a pilot workcenter for fabrication and one for assembly. This allowed the steering committee to focus their efforts and "prove" the feasibility and benefits to the organization. A number of trained first lieutenants with battle experience also emerged from the experience.

The steps that followed pilots were paced by the rollout of the concept of a plant within a plant. The concept calls for narrowing the range of demands placed on the manufacturing operation to lead to better performance because management's attention can be concentrated on a few key tasks and priorities. The focused subplant had all the resources required to execute their mission assigned directly like a platoon. At first that mission was to make a product from beginning to end. As further subplants were created the mission evolved toward a broader, general management much like a division with the product development and business strategy issues implied by that vision.


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