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Disciplined Path for Bottom-Line Improvement & Sustainability

Members of AICC have attempted in the past to improve bottom-line results by focusing on internal operations. Unfortunately, in many cases the realized benefits through these attempts could not be sustained. My experiences with members of AICC indicate a disciplined path is essential to improve and sustain bottom-line gains. A proactive planning in the following areas will place you ahead of your competition:

1. Focus on Implementation after Training

When the focus is on training without implementation of new concepts, we do not receive the benefits of the training. Top managers go to training and return with a book and a bag; middle managers attend the same and also return with another set of book and a bag. Later on bags are being used the books are gone. Thousands of dollars are spent on training with inadequate returns on investment. The punch-line: It should not be 80/20—training to implementation. The ratio needs to be reversed.

2. Do Not Just Focus on Manufacturing, Focus on All Processes

Just thinking that all waste is generated from manufacturing areas is not quite true. Non-manufacturing processes in many instances generate more waste. We do not believe this because we do not document waste with a discipline. Waste reduction should be focused on all processes, not just manufacturing processes alone.

3. Focus on the Bottom Line

Top managers push customer-related problem solving while failing to disseminate the bottom-line focus. Many employees do not understand the bottom-line connection to problems. Top management fails to help all employees to make this connection. Select and work on problems that have the greatest potential to impact the bottom-line in order to achieve the maximum” bang for the buck”.

4. Do Not Blame Others

We still blame others for our problems. This approach does not solve problems; it basically hides problems. Why the “blame game”? They blame others in the absence of disciplined methods/tools to solve problems. The responsible department managers, supervisors and other process improvement managers all know that they have to identify the root causes. But going after those root causes systematically and effectively is the major issue. Many problem solvers repeatedly conclude “human error” is the root cause for all problems. This conclusion can only solve less than 10% of all identified problems.

5. Disciplined Path for Problem Solving

Many problem solvers believe that there are several variables influencing the problem and it is difficult attack all of them at once. By attacking one at a time, the problem solvers fail to recognize the interaction among these variables. A systematic approach to problem solving is essential. That systematic path is Statistical Problem Solving (SPS) which combines simple statistics and employee involvement to achieve desired results.  Here’s the path:

• Define the problem.

• List suspect variables.

• Prioritize selected variables using a subjective rating system.

• Evaluate critical variables.

• Optimize critical variables which impact the solution.

• Monitor and measure results.

• Reward/recognize team members.

6. Select and Apply Right Tools

We must use the proper prescriptions to cure a given disease. In the same manner, apply the right tools and techniques to

achieve the desired results. Many facilities use lean manufacturing tools without knowing their precise application. Tools can only be effective if applied accurately and combined appropriately. Some use SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) without effectively applying 5S to establish an orderly workplace. Wrong tools lead to wrong results.

7. Establish Baselines for Monitoring

Improvement cannot be measured without establishing baselines. The baseline should be established once you have set the goals/objectives for improving selected areas. The improvement should not be less than 15 percent, and should have a direct link to the bottom-line.

8. Provide Adequate Time to Measure Results

Top management frequently pressures problem solvers to obtain quick results. To fully solve multivariable/complex problems, which repeat periodically, it takes a minimum of six months to sustain the positive results and optimization.

9. Inadequate/Ineffective Resources

Top management does not have a problem to commit resources. Maintaining the same level of resources for extended periods of

time under daily customer demands is a problem. Facilities are always “fighting fires”. There is nothing wrong in taking care of

customers.  But to improve bottom-line results and to sustain the improvements, we have to provide adequate and effective

resources to concentrate on selected improvement areas.

10.  Disciplined Path for Improving Bottom-Line

To get traction with a bottom-line program, you need to follow a path that comes off the problem-solving path. These are the steps that will take you the rest of the way along your company’s journey:

• Select top five areas having the greatest impact on the

bottom line.

• Establish baseline results and performance metrics.

• Train on problem-solving concepts.

• Apply problem-solving tools to reduce waste.

• Develop disciplined methods/controlling tools for

effective implementation.

• Measure and monitor success.

• Optimize.

• Monitor for sustainability.

• Develop procedures for sustainability.

• Review, recognize and reward.

So, precisely, many bottom-line implementers do not have the disciplined methods/tools to solve manufacturing and non-manufacturing problems. One simple methodology to systematically solve problems for the corrugated industry and others is Statistical Problem Solving. This methodology uses simple statistics and employee involvement to achieve desired results. With this disciplined approach to reducing waste, AICC members can experience greater returns on their investment in processes to enhance the bottom line.

-Baskar Kotte is president of Quality Systems Enhancement, a quality consulting and training firm in Atlanta. He is a certified auditor with specialties in ISO, Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma programs. He is developing a disciplined process improvement program for AICC Members.

He can be reached at 770-518-9967, or email baskar@qsebackup.atlcreative.co

— Disciplined Path for Bottom-Line Improvement & Sustainability

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Bhaskar Kotte

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