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Operational excellence

News | November 1, 2009 | By:

Seminars and exhibitors at this year’s IFAI Expo demonstrated ‘best practices’ and management savvy.

Improving profitability

What if someone told you that your company could make more money without an investment in assets? Kevin Kelly of Globe Canvas Products Co. helped a roomful of people at IFAI Expo increase their own efficiency in a quick exercise. Showing numbers scattered across a screen, he asked them to shout out numbers as soon as they spotted them in sequential order (it took 30 seconds to “count” to 22). Then he showed numbers listed numerically—to show how much time proper order can save.

Kelly and co-presenter William Browne of Manex stressed that profitability lies in metrics (measurements), awareness and planning. Some key points:

  • Understand what you are asking your employees to do and train them to understand what you want.
  • Get out of crisis mode. Solve problems immediately rather than working around them just to get the job done.
  • The definition of quality must include continuous improvement.
  • The cost of defects multiplies. An output of 3 percent defects may not sound like a lot, but it translates to 78 percent lost profits.
  • Emulate success. Model after the things you do right.
  • Ask employees for input.
  • Measure your processes so you can make good decisions.
  • Look for places to eliminate waste: defects, overproduction, waiting, non-value added processes (i.e., making 20 stitches when the customer is paying for 10 stitches), inefficient transportation, inefficient motion and employees not utilized to their full potential.

Making your company thrive

“Work different.” “Quit waiting for something to happen,” said George Hedley of Hardhat Productions. “Seek opportunities to grow.” Lowering your prices does not advance your business—finding new ways to use equipment and fabric does. Hedley urged attendees to meet face to face with customers frequently, attack new markets weekly and enter into joint ventures that build on their capacities and market reach.

Andy Morse of Ohio Awning used his own company and its lean manufacturing program as an example of ways to grow a business by eliminating waste. “Waste creates no value for the customer,” he stressed.

“Where do you find waste?” he continued. “Everywhere.”

  • Motion (i.e., the movement of people looking for tools or materials, extra steps between processes), often created by an inefficient facility layout.
  • Transportation (excessive handling of fabric to different operations, storage locations).
  • Inventory (excessive scrap material, leftover parts, obsolete hardware).
  • Waiting (a person waiting for a machine, a machine waiting for a person, a person waiting for a person, a machine waiting for a repairman, a person waiting for paint to dry).
  • Processing (lack of a clear understanding of what the customer wants, new technology used incorrectly, endless refinements).
  • Rework (operator/engineer/salesman error), often caused by inadequate training, equipment or processes.
  • Intellect (failure to use employees’ time and talents to their fullest).

The goal, Morse said, is continuous, incremental improvement.

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