When the Status Quo is No Longer Relevant

Disruptor (noun): a company or form of technology that causes radical change in an existing industry or market by means of innovation.

Recently, Dowding Industries invited guests to their Eaton Rapids headquarters to highlight a new, industry-changing manufacturing initiative. Led by Dowding CEO Christine Dowding-Metts and President Jeff Metts, attendees of the Capital Area Manufacturing Council (CAMC) peered into a new way of doing things that cuts lead times, harnesses the talent of employees and drives impressive business growth (to view the original CAMC article click here). We wanted to answer the most pressing questions and offer solutions. Like most other manufacturing companies we simply needed to cut production lead times which should in turn should lead to better customer service and a stronger bottom line- right? Not exactly. While Lean manufacturing and Kaizen do enhance processes, Dowding Industries has invested heavily in Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM).

When we conceptualize a traditional business (shop floor or office) layout, we usually have a static or fixed vision of how these should appear. We then often require our employees to adapt to these fixed surroundings, expecting them to work harder with less in order to get the results we desire. The problem with this mindset is that we seldom see large gains or improvements in productivity, while simultaneously alienating our employees (most of whom typically have no input into the efficiency or practicality of their work spaces.)

With the QRM process; the people, the environment or space they are working within, and how the product or service they offer is produced is fluid, dynamic and extremely adaptable to meet the customer’s needs. Meaning; we no longer look at the way things have always been done as the rule, but rather the exception.

The best way to understand QRM is to see it firsthand. That’s what the members from CAMC had the chance to experience on their tour of Dowding. As we walked around and through several of the offices, CAMC members started to see the possibilities as we do on a daily basis. This essentially means that nothing about the space in which an operation resides has to be a certain way, but rather is continually being re-evaluated and/or challenged for task effectiveness. Furthermore, most of these decisions are not being decided by the leadership of a company, but done on the shop floor or the office and those who reside within them. At the culmination of the tour, CAMC members were thinking about how they could similarly put some of these ideas into action and adapt them at their workplaces.

They were now empowered to become disruptors.

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