The solution is simple but it’s not easy.
It happens every 10-15 years in manufacturing, the industry giant known as manufacturing is humming along and BOOM a new movement appears. Whether it is quality control systems, CNC machining or CAD systems for tool design, some revolutionary ideas transform the industry. I believe “the next big thing” is going to be lead time reduction. Streamlining will occur in every facet of a part’s lead time, from answering a customer’s question to getting parts launched and production flowing out of factories like a river. In the day and age of instant results and customer service, the days of waiting and hoping your e-mail is read in time are over. When you go to a fast food restaurant, you don’t expect the time from when you place your order to eating fries at the bottom of your bag to increase as you get older do you? Same principle applies in manufacturing. An unfortunate byproduct of our digital era is an egregious lack in communication, soft skills and emotional intelligence. Just step inside an English class on any major college campus where a group presentation is going on. The group presenting is staring at their index cards or PowerPoint reading every line verbatim and the audience is engrossed in their Instagram feeds. In other words, no matter how much we rely on technology and digital forms of communication, humans need to actually speak to each other to ensure proper answers to problems. In the world of “LOL”, “OMG”, “BFF” and endless memes; solid and accurate communication is still a necessity. In order for lead times to shrink what you say to everyone up and down the line will have to be clear, concise and thoroughly understood.
Evolve and break through barriers
It is obsolete to think about lead time reduction as being simply your product finding its way out the door quicker than yesterday. That is a fixed mindset and what we need are growth mindsets. To truly achieve progress we need to not just look at how to improve our tasks, but instead look at the wasted time in between our tasks, and address the reasons that drive this waiting time. More often than not the root cause of the waste is poor communication. We must find a way to clear out the barriers in all of our processes. E-mails, text messages, 1960 office designs and clutter in all forms are killers to truly finding the sweet spot in lead time reduction. Pick up the phone and talk to your coworker opposed to sending out a chain of e-mails. Physically walk over to another person’s desk instead of texting them an issue. Rearranging desks to be more inclusive, taking out cubicles and having an open workspace, brainstorming ideas in a “Creative Room” all contribute to improved communication. Look at everything; nothing is sacred in this review. It’s time to bust down the walls of the box we have been thinking in and recognize the unseen opposition of lead time reduction. There are definite steps to take and the results are real, and in some aspects surprising. Reducing your lead time produces positive gains in productivity, worker engagement, morale boost and reduction in personnel turnover. The number of quotes awarded simply due to reduction in launch times is staggering which in turn is positively impacting our bottom line but that isn’t our biggest return. We have made our people more efficient and more effective and that is what we pride ourselves in most. So, consider lead time reduction as an all-inclusive exercise and recognize waste in areas you have not yet considered.
Strive to find the next path forward, there is always another peak.