February 2008

Slow to change; fast to move

By Gregory Hale, InTech, Editor

Remember the classic case of the tortoise and the hare? As you will recall, the two line up at the starting line, the hare takes off running all over the place-a sprinter in a long-haul race. 

The tortoise on the other hand just plods along and ends up winning the race because he does not burn out. Sure and steady.

Now, imagine if the two worked together side by side. 

The tortoise moves along one foot in front of the other, no surprises; nothing new. No nuances in what he is doing. He just keeps moving forward, tried and true. Meanwhile, the hare is running and jumping all round the tortoise almost scaring the poor reptile back into its shell.

Imagine that same scenario with today's manufacturers. On one hand, you have the plant floor moving along using the same technology it has used for years, if not decades, producing product every day. Customers continue to get their widgets without fail. That technology has worked well, and the thinking is "if it ain't broke, then don't change it." Yes, they look at changing, but it must be slow and well thought out.

The hare, on the other hand, is all the business folks trying to squeeze more out of the existing technology, trying to introduce new technology so they can become even more productive, eliminating jobs and doing more with less. On top of that, the hare chatters continuously, using more acronyms like ROI, KPI, BFCE, and CPI. 

A manufacturer now has to make everything better, faster, cheaper, and easier. That is manufacturing in the 21st century.

However, the plant floor and the business side are a strange dichotomy. Traditionally, they work together, but often at arm's length-not really knowing what the other is doing. 

One is cautious by nature; the other constantly feeling challenged by the environment around them. One wants to ensure the process is running smoothly, efficiently, and safely. The other is trying to squeeze out as much out of the old system as humanly possible, while also grabbing hold of outside concepts to test whether they apply to their company. The funny thing is both are right. Under this new age way of manufacturing, these two sides, now more than ever, must work together to help their company-not only survive, but achieve greater success. 

In this evolving global environment, these seemingly diverse factions within a company have to work as a team, or else a new player in the marketplace will happily take the business away. Your competitors of the future are starting up right now. 

Form a team combining the tortoises and the hares. Make sure they can work together in a completely open environment. True teamwork is a hard goal to accomplish. It shouldn't be, but it is.

Communication acts as the cornerstone to accomplishing all goals. What are the goals? There should be a combination of fast-paced goals and ones you achieve over time. 

Having everyone working on the same page, and knowing what to do and when to do it, is key for a team to succeed. Like the tortoise and the hare, the combination of speed and perseverance will assure you are keeping ahead of the competition.

Everyone is on the starting line and ready to go. Who will win depends on how the team works together.

Talk to me:ghale@isa.orgor (919) 990-9275.