How Are Your Processes Really Performing?

New Cars

I love my car. Recently, I had to get some major repairs done on it (luckily, they were covered by the warranty). Because it was going to take a while, they provided me with a loaner. This was a really nice car—only 1,200 miles, new-car smell, sunroof, super quiet, drove like a dream. It made me realize that even though I love my current car, there are parts of it that just aren’t as good—it doesn’t ride as well over bumps, it’s a little louder, no new-car smell… Prior to this experience, I thought my car was great. Now I’m starting to question my driving solution based on what’s available now. A good sales trick by the dealer.

While it’s typical for us to think our current solutions are adequate, if we have a chance to try a new service, we may see there’s a better way of doing things. Typically, we put up with minor (or even major) inconveniences because we developed the process and we can’t imagine doing it any other way. We don’t think we can get any more benefit than we have right now.

This is very similar to experiences and conversations I have with customers and potential customers about their solutions. For instance, I speak to a lot of customers who do finite capacity scheduling via a spreadsheet. To them this is a perfect solution—it’s “free,” it’s “easy,” the scheduler can just create the schedule, print it, out and tape it up at various places on the floor for users to see it.


Until…There needs to be a change in the schedule app. In many cases, there are only a few people that know the app to make changes. And the changes can be complex. If I make a change to a certain cell in the spreadsheet, I have to remember to make a change in other cells. So you can go through a number of iterations to get it right. Not a big deal?

Until…There needs to be a rush order put into the system. Now the orders have to be moved around manually in the app, and once we get done with that manual exercise, we need to print it out again and send it down to the various places on the floor. It takes some time to do this. Not a big deal?

Until…They spend a lot of time trying to determine how the schedule is actually performing. They need to walk around the plant or go to daily meetings to see what is actually completed. There is no automatic update in the schedule, so it takes the planner hours to reconcile where the plan is every day. Not a big deal?

These are all things they live with. And even though—like my thinking that my current car was performing at peak performance—they think their process is perfect, it is littered with inefficiencies that can really lead to increased cost, increased lead time, late orders, etc. The list goes on. So it’s not “easy” and it’s not “free.” They’ve become accustomed to a low performing solution because they appear to be getting the job done.

The lesson here is we need to stop and think about how our solutions are actually performing. Is there a way we can do things differently that would allow us to do things faster, easier and at less cost? The top performing companies are always looks for that competitive edge. I’m currently reading The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team and Growing your Career, by Jack Welch and Suzy Welch. One of the key ideas is about getting a new set of eyes to look at a problem. Not being part of the current solution allows you to not be blinded by how things have always been done and to be open to new ways that can really propel you forward.

Are your processes really performing as well as you think? What processes do you have today that you can look at with a fresh set of eyes?

Now I have to start thinking about my next car…

Paul Adams

Paul has spent more than 20 years in manufacturing with GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, focusing on product development. His deep industry experience comes from countless calls, meetings and visits to manufacturers around the globe to help solve their business challenges. Today, he works in Global Professional Services, which allows him to continue working with GE’s manufacturing customers at a more downstream function. Wonder what challenges he’s helping manufacturers solve today? Connect with Paul on LinkedIn.

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