This article appeared in the August 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
When changes to your products and processes are not consistently planned and well-executed, the result can be a huge drain on your cash-flow and trouble for your sales efforts. If your customers do not respect your ability to execute, it can make them hesitant to place new business with you.
Here are five essentials you need to be thinking about to ensure effective product change is occurring in your business.
- Create one version of the truth for everyone. To create a clear, single version of the truth it is critical to capture the complete original requirements in a common database or repository that all can access, as needed. Managing changes via paper sheets in folders can lead to lost folders and delays. Using emails to carry around notes and updates creates risk of many different versions. As you can imagine, this opens the door to mistakes and problems as the execution of the change plays out. CLARITY IS ESSENTIAL.
- Map the process clearly. Take the time (TAKE THE TIME!) to gather stakeholders and leaders to work out a consensus process flow. Identify ordered steps, responsible roles/people identified and target timeframes for actions to be completed. Best practice workflows include sales, accounting, design, engineering, testing, quality, logistics, production scheduling, tooling, manufacturing and logistics. It is often helpful to have a skilled facilitator to listen carefully, draw out the interests of each area and recommend best practices to assure a thorough and balanced process. CLARITY FOR ALL IS CRITICAL.
- Thoroughly capture the requirements. Certainly, product design data and specifications are vital to executing change well. However, there is much more that is important for your company to know. Consider storing the requested delivery date for the revised product, latest referenced specification and standards documents and volume changes, if any. CLARITY MINIMIZES “DO-OVERS”.
- Keep updating your one version of the truth. Avoid creating isolated pockets of information on each change request. Adding new data and facts to the official record of the change’s requirements enables your colleagues and suppliers to work toward one result to satisfy your customer. As work progresses through engineering, purchasing, and operations culminating in the launch of the change, what you need to deliver can often be quite different than the original requirements. CLARITY LEADS TO TRUST FOR EVERYONE TO DO THEIR JOBS EFFICIENTLY.
- Measure the process to enable improvements. To help assure customer satisfaction and minimize your time and hard costs, it is wise to establish metrics for your change process. Key factors can be original requested date, planned date and actual launch date on your plant floor. Also, consider studying actual costs versus budget for the change. Monitor how you are doing to identify bottlenecks and waste. Improving your process helps your team members, supplier and customers see that you execute well. Having trust and respect can lead to lower costs and more sales as the preferred, headache-free supplier. CLARITY LEADS TO TRUST AND TRUST OVER TIME LEADS TO RESPECT.
Remember, when your customer, your entire team and your suppliers are on the same page, every change can be executed with minimal cost in the quickest time with the most customer satisfaction. Are you putting your business in the best position to succeed?
Oakstone Group is an MMA Premium Associate Member and has been an MMA member company since March 2019. Visit online: www.oakstonegroup.com.