My first Management job was on the Manufacturing floor on 3rd shift. It was company policy … anyone’s first Management job was in Manufacturing. The principle was sound: to really understand how the business operated you needed to be at the very core of what it did, which in this case was Manufacturing. Only then could you really learn the business and how to work with people.
So as I started a new job further along in my career, with responsibility for Distribution Centres around the world, I knew that I was not going to learn what I needed to know from behind a desk looking at Powerpoint slides with pictures and statistics. I needed to go to each and every facility and learn about the operation right from the floor.
Does your business struggle with process ownership? Are your process improvements not “sticking”? The failure of an organization to have in place well-functioning process owners is a common occurrence these days.
The root causes (if anyone cares to do a full postmortem) are numerous. We’ve heard it all before; “the organizational structure won’t allow for it”, “incentives are misaligned”, “leaders don’t understand what it takes to be a process owner” etc. I’m sure we can all relate to some or all of these statements.
When I was presenting the latest Supply Chain Strategic Plan the CEO said to me, “We’ve already spent millions on Supply Chain! Every process should be working like clockwork. Why do you need more money?”
It was true, to a degree. While I had only recently joined the company it was true that the company was investing over $10 million to upgrade and automate their Distribution Center operations.
My predecessor had spearheaded this investment. The current Distribution Center operations were unable to handle the growth, the change in product mix, and the dynamics associated with rapid fulfillment and online shopping.
But there were some fatal flaws which were at the core of their investment plan. Most significantly they failed to optimize the process first.
As a result they were spending millions of dollars automating a bad process.