March 2008

It's the team that wins

By Gregory Hale, InTech, Editor

March is the time when NCAA basketball mania takes a firm grip on a good chunk of the U.S. It is called "March Madness."
 
Folks know who is going to win and why-at least they think they do, especially diehard fans. But when you really get down to it, besides skill and executing plays properly, the team that wins usually has that intangible called unity. They work together for the common good.
 
You see it all the time, when egos stay checked at the door, a team forms. From the star on the floor shooting three-pointers to the player riding the pine, they all have a role, and they all work as one. 

To win in a global manufacturing environment today the same thing is true; Teams have to work together to achieve total effectiveness.

"It takes a lot of people to make things happen," said Margaret Walker, vice president of engineering solutions, technology centers, and manufacturing and engineering work processes at Dow Chemical.  "Ultimate success comes down to the people."

What is true is companies have to work together within their own boundaries and also with their partners to get ahead in a global environment. It is a total team effort.

"To run a plant effectively, you need to work with the enterprise, engineering and design, and operations. You have to work with all these partners to achieve greater success," said Andy Chatha, president of industry research firm ARC Advisory Group during the company's 12th annual forum in Orlando, Fla.

There is no doubt technology has brought global communities closer, but it is not just using the latest and greatest advances that will get a company ahead, Walker said.

"Success is all about collaboration. Success is all about working together," she said.
 
Things cannot remain the same, so the concept of change will always be in the business plan for the team.

For successful change, there needs to be strong leadership, Walker said. "Leadership helps secure buy in from all parties. Without leadership support, all project energy is wasted. It takes the right people at the right place at the right time."

There also should not be any hidden agendas.

"Leaders must be unselfish in their decision making," Walker said.

Leaders making unselfish decisions is rare today. If the company is doing well, then why make changes? Aircraft maker Boeing fell into that category. The company was doing well, but it knew it had to change. One reason was the company had to stay ahead of the competition. Another reason is most of its customers, the airlines, were operating in the red and Boeing had to find a way to help them add new revenue streams, Tim Opitz, director, Boeing 787 production and support, systems integration process and tools said at the ARC Forum.

The company had to change its concept of working with partners to ensure it could get global delivery of airplane parts to the assembly plant. What it ended up doing was developing a "commonality matrix," essentially a set of standards for all partners to work from. All partners would meet and then agree to the matrix, Opitz said. Working together as a team.

Working on the 787 "changed the way Boeing is doing business and how the companies supporting Boeing are doing business," Opitz said.

No madness here. Dow and Boeing did not sit on the bench and watch the game. Rather, they went out and worked with their teams to come out winners. How about you?

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