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No matter what you call it, a rose has distinctive components that make it instantly recognizable. The same should be true for the process to achieve world class competitive levels. But acronyms like TQM, MRPII, JIT, and CIM, catch-phrases like manufacturing excellence, team-building, or reengineering the factory, along with the latest program of the month promotions have caused more confusion than clarity. The bottom line, however is not the name. It is the process.

This paper will describe the vital elements that must be implemented by any company that aspires to world class performance, explain why they are necessary and show how they intertwine and support one another. It will also show how many of today's popular strategies omit certain key elements that doom them to failure. It concludes with a recipe for success that will enable a determined company to become the very best in its field.

Jousting with Jargonism

Every month, someone invents a new term for an old thing or modifies one to make it seem new. Obviously, this helps sell books, magazines and consulting services. It also gives us new buzz words to help us impress our bosses and associates. Unfortunately, it also creates false impressions and hopes about instant cures. The trouble is, people are using terms like TQM, SPC, MRP, JIT, El and CIM like interchangeable silver bullets to shoot the werewolf. They get so caught up in the jargon, they often don't understand what it really means and end up shooting themselves in the foot, or worse.

Everything needs a name, for convenience if nothing else. If we're all singing from the same sheet of music, the song title immediately brings the melody to mind. But what happens if you haven't seen or heard the original music and get your input from hearsay or reading about it? What tune do you hear when that title is mentioned? It's probably nothing like the composer wrote or intended. It's no different in business, when we talk about all those wonderful magic elixirs to instantly improve the health of our companies. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of misunderstood names we must contend with today. A sampling of some of the more popular ones is shown in Figure 1.

The worst part is that some people have been talking about some of these things for such a long time they seem to have convinced themselves that they are actually doing them. But, in the words of St. Ignacius Loyola, To know and not to do is not to know. It's in the doing, or attempting to do, that the dilemma of today's jumble of jargon creates the most difficulties. How then, can we separate the truth from the clutter?

Back to the Basics

Even the goal of attaining world class performance levels means different things to different people. What performance? What level is high enough? Who says so? And, if we can agree on the target, what elements are necessary to reach it? Are they all necessary or can we pick and choose the ingredients that appeal to us? What about the proportions? Can we season to our own taste or is the customer the ultimate judge?

Back in the days when I started my career, the three main requirements to be successful on a bid were Price, Delivery and Quality (we called it the PDQ factor). Prices had to be competitive (lowest was best, of course), delivery was as required by the customer's schedule (which usually gave some consideration to quoted supplier leadtimes), and quality was meeting specifications (at least most of the time). Later, when two or more suppliers were almost equal in the PDQ factor, service entered the picture as a tie-breaker.

If we had our druthers today the dream world supplier would offer us perfect products or services immediately upon request (some­times even anticipating our needs before we asked), and do it almost for free. The reason for this model change is that some companies are getting closer and closer to actually doing that. A world class supplier today can produce almost perfect products to customer order in incredibly short leadtimes at unbelievably low prices, while pampering the customer in every possible way. What's that? You say you can't, shouldn't have to, or won't try to do that? With that attitude, just watch your business get siphoned away by those who will. Whether we like it or not, those are the new rules of the game, and it's impacting some industries faster than others.

What's important to remember, and totally ignored by both the magic pill seekers and peddlers, is that all of these are necessary to satisfy today's customers. (Actually, all were required yester­day, as well; there's just a big difference in degree.) Therefore, a world class company is going to strive for:

• Perfect quality

• Lowest cost

• Immediate build-to-order

• Regal customer service

All four are needed at the same time. These are not trade-off options. The customer wants them all, and will not be satisfied with less.


Part 1  Part 2   Part 3  Part 4

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