Shop Floor Management -- What Are the Future Trends?

Earlier this year, Philip Gisi published a book entitled Fundamentals of Daily Shop Floor Management: A Guide for Manufacturing Optimization and Excellence, which explores the fundamental elements, management practices, improvement methods, and future direction of shop floor management. 

During a conversation with Philip this past month, I asked him: "What has changed regarding shop floor management? What is the current direction?” Here is his complete response:

The discipline of shop floor management has undergone significant changes in recent years due to advancements in technology and changes in industry practices. With the advent of automation and robotics, the shop floor has become more efficient and productive. Robots can perform repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy, speed, and reliability, which can help reduce production costs and improve product quality. Automation has also led to the integration of real-time data collection and analysis, enabling better decision-making. As I stated in my book, companies working toward excellence “can’t lose sight of the fundamental activities necessary to preserve what they have already achieved. This is the role of Daily Shop Floor Management (DSFM); to maintain operational performance while realizing and sustaining productivity improvements on the never-ending journey of operational excellence." 

The current direction of daily shop floor management is towards greater efficiency and productivity through the use of technology and data-driven decision-making. One of the key trends in this area is the use of real-time data analytics to monitor and optimize shop floor performance. By collecting data from various sensors and systems on the shop floor, manufacturers can gain insights into how their processes are performing in real time. This allows them to quickly identify and address any issues that may arise, as well as optimize their processes to improve efficiency and quality.

Another trend in daily shop floor management is the use of mobile devices and cloud-based applications to enable better communication and collaboration between shop floor personnel and management. This allows for more effective and timely decision-making, as well as improved coordination between different departments and teams. In essence, the goal of daily shop floor management is to continuously improve operations and drive greater value for customers, shareholders, and other stakeholders. This requires a commitment to ongoing learning, experimentation, and adaptation, as well as sustaining what has already been achieved while embracing new technologies and approaches.

What do you think of Philip Gisi's perspective on the current state of shop floor management? Does it reflect the changes on the shop floor in your company? What trends in shop floor management have you seen?


Discovering Failure Modes Early in the Design Process

Earlier this month, I spoke with Ed Henshall, who just recently published a book entitled Right By Design: A Novel Approach to Failure Mode Avoidance. His book presents an approach to product design based on Failure Mode Avoidance that utilizes a series of strongly interrelated engineering tools and interpersonal skills that can be used to discover failure modes early in the design process. The tools can be used across engineering disciplines.

During our conversation, I asked him: "Is it possible to discover failure modes early in the design process?” Here is his complete answer:

The short answer -- Yes, with difficulty. 

In looking at a longer answer, I would rephrase the question slightly --  “Is it possible to discover potential failure modes early in the design process before you have a design?”  

Firstly, the word “potential” is important as it indicates that the design can fail but has not yet failed. Secondly, by not having a design I intend that the design is fluid and not finalized meaning that it can readily be changed without impacting the cost and timing of the design process. This latter point is the good news -- if failure modes are found that require fixing early in the design process, this can be done inexpensively. However, the associated bad news is that it is difficult to discover failure modes early in the design process when a design is fluid. 

The key to this conundrum is to have a clear understanding of what it is that the design is intended to do, and its function, along with an equally clear understanding of the way in which the design will achieve this function. What is important here is that the design is initially considered from a functional perspective rather than a hardware perspective. To quote the well know architect Louis Sullivan, “Form ever follows function.”

The System State Flow Diagram provides a way of modeling a design from the functional perspective allowing potential failures of function to be identified in a rigorous and systematic manner. This enables design countermeasures subsequently to be developed in moving into hardware design. 

Discovering failure modes early in the design process requires effective and efficient teamwork, which does not happen as a matter of course when groups of people work together but requires significant attention to, and coaching of, the team process.  

What do you think of Ed Henshall's perspective? Does your organization have effective "team process" and leadership?


Can You Plan and Execute Strategic Productivity Improvements Without Incurring Large Expenditures?

In February, Alin Posteucă published a book entitled Beyond Strategic Kaizen: Performing Synchronous Profitable Operations, which presents a methodology that achieves simultaneous and consistent systematic operational and financial improvements in a strategic and operational manner. It achieves both synchronous operations at market demand by fulfilling takt time and profitable operations in accordance with profit demand by fulfilling takt profit. In short, the Strategic Kaizen mission is striving for the fulfillment of the ideal state of operations called synchronous profitable operations.

When I spoke with Alin this past week, I asked him: "How do you plan and execute strategic productivity improvements to meet financial and operational expectations simultaneously without further expenditure?"

Here is his full response:

This is a difficult time for manufacturers. To survive, manufacturing organizations must activate their entire potential for planning and executing strategic systematic productivity improvements, they need Strategic Kaizen -- they must go beyond traditional Kaizen activities and beyond the daily activities of continuous improvement based on the reduction or elimination of waste empirically at the shop floor level.

Naturally, a question arises: How is the new concept of Strategic Kaizen for performing synchronous profitable operations defined? "…it is a participatory, systematic, and scientific planning and control process used to align financial and operational business strategy with strategic systematic improvement activities to meet the goals of Takt Profit and takt time at the same time regardless of sales trend (increasing or decreasing)."

Therefore, in this book, I did not limit the Strategic Kaizen to a mere strategic improvement approach. It goes beyond since its main purpose is to direct a complete and continuous strategic transformation to the ideal state of operations, to the state of synchronous profitable operations by meeting successive targets of Takt Profit, or ”the target profit per minute in the bottleneck operation”, and implicitly by meeting the successive targets of takt time. 

As is known, the concept of "synchronization", or JIT and its practice are very important, but it is very difficult for all manufacturing companies to achieve a complete and especially profitable "synchronization". For final manufacturers, "synchronization" seems to be still an extremely effective method, but for their suppliers, "synchronization" is not always adequate, and it is not always profitable enough.

But let's return to your question more specifically. By applying the unique methodology in seven basic processes of Strategic Kaizen presented in detail and with real case studies only in this book, executives have a new way of thinking and acting to move the business to the next level.

In the first five processes, strategic productivity improvements are planned, as follows:

1) measuring and studying the full potential for strategic productivity improvement;

2) calculating ideal Takt Profit and setting strategic expectations for stratified KAIZENshiro;

3) annual financial reconciliation by establishing annual KAIZENshiro budgets and the annual Takt Profit target (financial catchball);

4) annual operational reconciliation by establishing the production target time and by developing the Balanced Scorecard and KPIs (operational catchball);

5) organizing, planning, and learning for Strategic Kaizen.

Then the last two processes focus on the implementation and management, as follows:

6) implementing annual feasible Strategic Kaizen projects in six steps;

7) results, standardization, horizontal extensions, and future plans. 

In conclusion, I recommend both final manufacturers and their suppliers use Strategic Kaizen to simultaneously satisfy the urgent need for "synchronization", or operational need and "profitability" to achieve complete and continuous strategic transformation and to achieve continuous strategic improvement in manufacturing costs of at least 6% per year and with a total of 30-45% for five consecutive years, based on the reduction/elimination of costs of excess inputs and the associated cost of failing to utilize those optimally, costs that exist in their organization anyway, without significant investments, with financial visibility of improvements at the level of KAIZENshiro budgets.

So, the main job of managers is to improve productivity systemically, without investment, and especially strategically, through the now available new Strategic Kaizen thinking and methodology.

What do you think of Alin Posteucă's idea of Strategic Kaizen? Do you think this methodology can achieve synchronous profitable operations?


What Mistakes Do Salespeople Make Regarding Qualification in Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?

In 2022, Antonio Specchia published a book entitled Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Medium and Small Enterprises: How to Find the Right Solution for Effectively Connecting with Your Customers. This book discusses how to implement a CRM from the perspective of the businessperson -- not the more typical IT consultant or the technical staff. It benefits business development, sales management, and sales process control.

When I spoke with Antonio earlier this month, I asked him: “What mistakes do salespeople make regarding qualification in CRM?” Here is his complete answer:

There are several mistakes that organizations make when it comes to sales -- one of them is failing to understand the needs of their customers. 

But there is one that typically goes unnoticed that it is so often ignored if not totally unknown. Even when organizations include it in their sales process it is often diminished and not appropriately performed by salespeople. As it is an essential part of the process of understanding the client’s needs and requirements, the lack of perfect execution affects the quality of the whole process.

This is due to misleading incentives that favor salespeople's shortcuts, and also because of their positive intention to take prospects ahead in the sales process. 

The capability to escort contacts toward the last stage of the sales process shows the completeness of the job. No matter how, when prospects convert, that’s great! If they don’t, there will always be many valid reasons to claim just apply the politicians’ golden rule, it’s always someone else's fault!

You probably guessed it, we are talking about the qualification stage -- a small process itself within the whole sales process. It is a delicate task that requires a deep focus to be performed correctly: mastering the art of persuasion. How many sales reps know it? How many of them truly master this technique? Organizations should consider its real implications, benefits, and risks.

Inadequate or inappropriate qualifications can lead to several problems that are not always directly related to it: time wasting, over usage of resources, and excessive effort, all problems that can ultimately damage the organizations.

Failing to establish clear and objective criteria to clarify what makes a good fit for their solutions. Defining a buyer persona means disqualifying everyone else. The ultimate sense of a strategy is about taking long-term decisions to focus on one single track, eliminating all other options. Failing to follow the long-term strategy always results in a messy execution. Salespeople spend time on prospects who are unlikely to convert as they are not a good fit.

Taking the time to ask the right questions to gather the right information from the prospect by mastering the art of persuasion during the qualification process is the way to do it. Lack of a perfect execution can result in missing the opportunity to identify key pain points to offer tailored solutions, which can ultimately result in a lower conversion rate.

Several approaches help in designing the qualification process, two of them are the MEDDIC and the BANT. Both are intended to provide a pathway to assess the same important matter: if prospective clients match the ideal client. 

But wrong qualification is often seen just as a go/no-go filter -- in order to proceed any further all the parameters should be in place: the potential client should have a proper budget; a clear, definite need; the power to negotiate and sign the contract; and the necessary time for delivery.

No wonder why salespeople shortcut it: are those parameters fixed and riveted or can they change along the way? 

Experienced salespeople know how a budget and the timing may be adapted to fit a more valuable option, or they haven’t clarified the real need. The sales process is well beyond just the process to grow the business by engaging new clients, it is the moment when each relationship, created and nurtured over a long time may finally develop and mature.

Honesty and transparency are getting more relevant in business. Organizations are now expected to operate with honesty and transparency in dealing with potential customers (https://hbr.org/2009/06/a-culture-of-candor). It means the persuasion of the counterpart should rely on transparency and honesty even without neglecting the power of asymmetric information.

And this is what the qualification process aims for, sharing openly and honestly requirements and expectations on one side and possibilities and value of use from the other side, it enables both parties in developing a more trustworthy collaboration, not to avoid possible sources of revenue to deal with the salesperson. The ones that do not fit into the trustworthy framework will walk away without regret.

Do you agree with Antonio Specchia's perspective? How do Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems function within your organization? 


How Can Senior Leaders Be Effective in Times of Constant and Dramatic Change?

At the beginning of January, I spoke with author Joanne Irving about her latest book entitled The C² Factor for Leadership: How the Alchemy of Curiosity and Courage Helps Leaders Become Champions and Lead Meaningful Lives. This book answers the questions: How do we effectively lead in times of constant, often dramatic change? And, equally important, how do we simultaneously create a satisfying, meaningful life? In addition, it reveals that when leaders manifest both traits, they embrace the professional and personal opportunities the future brings. When the landscape is shifting beneath our feet the C² Factor enables us to lead more effectively and helps us cultivate more fulfilling personal lives.

During our conversation, I asked Joanne: "How can senior leaders be effective in times of constant, often dramatic change?" Here is her complete answer:

How can we prepare for the future when COVID and all the changes it provoked remind us of just how surprised we are when it arrives?

Cognitive skills such as business competence, creating a vision, and strategic thinking; and emotional intelligence such as communicating, inspiring, and developing others are necessary but insufficient for leadership today. Beyond specific skills, beyond IQ and EQ, leaders today need personality characteristics that enable them to respond to changes regardless of what conditions emerge. To embrace and exploit the future, leaders need to develop and exercise the C² Factor -- the application of profound curiosity and relentless courage

While both curiosity and courage are often mentioned on lists of desired leadership qualities, the alchemy of the two -- the C² Factor -- is where the magic is. 

Curiosity and courage are symbiotic and when applied synergistically, produce exceptional leadership. To be curious often requires courage – the courage to examine one’s assumptions, beliefs, and attitudes, the courage to be curious about what options have not been considered, whose opinion has been left out, why the organization is structured the way it is…

And it helps us be courageous when we adopt a curious mindset. When faced with a challenge, instead of reacting with defensiveness we can explore the validity of that challenge, be interested in what opportunities it could bring, and what innovation it might inspire. Courage is what enables us to take action in the face of ambiguity.

Leaders who want their organizations to nimbly navigate the lightning-speed change of today and be prepared for an assuredly uncertain future must model the C² Factor and embed it in their organization’s culture. This means:

Hiring from groups with diverse backgrounds

Enabling innovation by encouraging challenges to the status quo

Providing time and resources for exploration outside of one’s immediate area of expertise

Rewarding judicious risk-taking, even when those experiments fail

Today’s world is different from what tomorrow will bring so business as usual does not work. Leaders must ask questions and make decisions that challenge or even defy conventional wisdom.  They must take action to respond to conditions they have never anticipated. They must exercise their C² Factor.

What do you think about Joanne's ideas? Do you believe that this synergistic application of curiosity and courage results in more effective leadership?