ProActive Manufacturing 




What Does It Take to Get There?

In Time-Obsessed Competition, Peters does an excellent job laying out the following 10 must-dos to compete in time as follows:

1. The application of information technology inside and out­side the firm.

2. A revolution in organizational structure—make it a flat spider-web-type network.

3. Total horizontal process revision.

4. Make time the basis of measurement ahead of profit, quality, service, innovations, and cost (which will all follow in its wake).

5. Wholesale empowerment and trust of front-line people to facilitate real-time decision-making.

6. Decentralize information technology—power to the people.

7. Transform from adversary to partner orientation inside and out.

8. Eliminate blinders caused by job-description thinking.

9. Think in wholes, not parts.

10. Make time-obsessed competition a way of life. Although we will not discuss each point, we will highlight a few that relate to systems and discuss how we feel the proactive approach can help.

Must-Do #1

The application of technology inside and outside the firm to link everyone to everyone else ... all information literally must be available to everyone in the organization on a real-time basis.

We believe that while this is important, you need to go further and have a proactive approach where the system (as the ad says) does a reach out and touch someone when a problem is detected. It is no longer sufficient to have data even on-line and real-time, because it still requires people to remember to look for it.

Here is a cost-accounting example to expand on this point: Although a traditional cost accounting system may enter, validate and make available details in a real-time fashion, it typically does not analyze and report the variances until month end or at best, job end. A thick report is created at month end that is either too ominous to tackle, or too late to be useful in determining what caused the problems. An improvement here is to have a proactive system, where management sets key controls, flags, and indica­tors ahead of time (e.g., "tell me when there is more than a 5 percent variance on an operation"). The system then constantly monitors operations (similar to the way statistical process control works). Once an out of tolerance case is determined, the system immediately notifies the responsible supervisor. In this way, the cause can be determined while people remember the circum­stances. This empowers front-line people to participate, find solutions, and make real-time decisions (must-do #5).

Another proactive example is the reporting of nonevents, things that did not happen that should have. Again with indicators and acceptable tolerances, if a certain part is off schedule by a predefined time period, the supervisor is notified via an E-mail message. This again empowers corrective action to be initiated while it still makes a difference.

Must-Do #3

Reduce the numberless trivial delays with wholesale total horizontal process revision.

Again, we believe that traditional systems cause a lot of the trivial delays that must be eliminated. More importantly, the proactive systems approach is a new paradigm that actually facilitates reengineering of the process. Proactive systems can be used in an inductive way to facilitate breakthrough thinking while reengin­eering the business processes toward competing in time. The inductive process presents new solutions. Your challenge is to then find the problems to solve. This is as contrasted to the traditional deductive systems approach of identifying the prob­lems you think you have (based on a traditional view of the business) followed by finding solutions that supposedly fit.

The Never-Ending Journey

We have attempted to illustrate a new systems approach that supports doing business on a proactive, real-time basis to achieve a true time-based competitive advantage. Contemporary concepts from industry experts laid the foundation while actual case studies referred to real-world results achieved from this approach.

Proactive systems search for problems, events, and opportunities and notify you immediately so you can deal with them. This approach was contrasted with traditional systems that assume you know what data you are looking for and how to look for them. Traditional systems also assume you will remember to look for information in order to find and fix problems.

World class competitiveness is a journey, not a destination. Creative people with the imagination to explore a better way always seem to create new TLAs (three-letter abbreviations) in an attempt to name and perhaps simplify their concepts. We believe the proactive approach outlined here makes TCM (Time-Critical Manufacturing™) the next TLA to follow in the footsteps of such greats as MRP, JIT, and TQM. No doubt, TCM will be destined to improvement, at some point in the journey, by yet another TLA—TBD (to be determined).


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