THE BUSINESS OF VISCOSITY BLOG



    What’s Trending in Manufacturing

    Posted by Rob Gladstone

    Jan 28, 2014 12:55:00 PM

    Process Improvement Trends
    In the January 2014 Edition of Products Finishing Magazine, regular contributor Matthew Kirchner, CEO of American Finishing Resources, LLC wrote an article entitled What’s Trending in Manufacturing?  In the section named “Process Improvement Trends,” Mr. Kirchner identified increased expectations of suppliers by manufacturers. 
    Those expectations include:
    • Manufacturers will look to suppliers to be the experts in improving manufacturing processes.
    • Suppliers will be increasingly relied upon to have "boots on the ground" and assist customers in meeting their goals.
    • Participation in and even the ability to facilitate customer continuous improvement events will be key.
    • Manufacturers will continue their focus on lean and continuous improvement. They will continually reduce order sizes as economic order quantities push toward single units.
    • Suppliers will be expected to service customers with speed and like-minded thinking.
    • Manufacturers will require suppliers who are educated and conversant in the areas of automation and robotics and in how the supplier’s products or services align with an automated production process.
    As a company that has been supplying process improvement solutions since 1990, we agree with Mr. Kirchner’s assessment.  For this reason, we thought it may be helpful to outline the process we use when determining whether our solutions are the right fit for a manufacturer. describe the image
     
    Determine if There is a Problem Worth Solving
    Our first step in any potential solution is to jointly determine if the consequences of not implementing a solution outweigh the safety in staying with the status quo.  We are often able to highlight issues that the manufacturer did not even know existed.  Solutions are worthless unless there is a problem worth solving or a benefit worth achieving.  If we cannot mutually agree on this, we generally agree to postpone any effort related to a Process Improvement Solution.
     
    Collect Information
    The next step is to collect any quality, cost and technical data that will help assess the extent of the problem or benefit.  Nobody has excess time available and any time spent pursuing a project that will not make sense financially, at a minimum, will wind up being time wasted.
     
    Involve Others
    We identify the people that will be involved in determining whether this will become a project and understand their concerns.  The investment in a Process Improvement Solution becomes much more than a financial investment.  A Process Improvement Solution, by its very nature, upsets the status quo.  For the people that have to implement the solution, or even the person that has to sign the check, this potentially disruptive technology can affect cultures and careers.  Understanding this thoroughly ultimately has a significant impact on the overall success of the solution.
     
    Generate a Proposal
    We generate a proposal complete with cost estimates, expected benefits and problems we believe we can solve.  We ensure that the issues identified by everyone involved are addressed.  We ensure that our Post Sale involvement is a part of the proposal.  Remember, as identified by Mr. Kirchner in What’s Trending in Manufacturing:
    “Manufacturers will look to suppliers to be the experts in improving manufacturing processes.  Suppliers will be increasingly relied upon to have "boots on the ground" and assist customers in meeting their goals.  Participation in and even the ability to facilitate customer continuous improvement events will be key.”
    This phase allows us to promote our expertise.  If we can provide no measureable value to the manufacturer, we supply them with what we have learned and thank them for the opportunity.
     
    Mutually Agree on Cost (Benefit)
    At this point, we ensure that the cost of the problem is defined and mutually agreed upon.  If we are unable to agree on the cost of the problem, it makes agreement on the solution nearly impossible.  If we cannot get this, (or at least agree on an acceptable range), we supply them with what we have learned and thank them for the opportunity.
                         
    Provide Reassurance
    Nobody wants to be associated with a bad decision or a failure.  People need some reassurance when they are getting ready to make a significant change.  We have access to a satisfied customer base that will allow visits.  Focusing on past successes in similar applications makes it easier for them to have confidence in their decision.  Access to demonstration equipment that manufacturers can use to familiarize themselves with our solutions and its benefits also adds confidence.
                         
    Offer Payment Options
    Later in the article, Mr. Kirchner states,
    “Payment terms will become longer. Manufacturers will be expected to lengthen payment terms or find other ways to respond to these requests. They must devise strategies to negotiate or respond to customer requests and take advantage of the lower cost of capital with creative customer solutions.”
    We have a partnership with a funding group that specializes in Equipment Vendor Finance Solutions.   Bringing them to the table, they can deal directly with the manufacturer’s financial team on our behalf and generate solutions.  Often these solutions can generate immediate positive cash flow for the manufacturer.
                         
    Communicate the Implementation
    We believe that four factors lead to a successful project and they include a commitment to each of the following: 
    • Time
    • Effort
    • Energy
    • Money 
    The manufacturer needs to be able to understand how he is going to get this project completed after he gets the funding approved.
    At this stage, we find it’s important to communicate what happens if we agree to move forward with a project.  Resources available for implementation are often a concern.  Remember Mr. Kirchner’s observation, “Suppliers will be increasingly relied upon to have "boots on the ground" and assist customers in meeting their goals.”
                         
    Summary
    The What’s Trending in Manufacturing? article had some interesting insights and observations.  As a company that has supplied Process Improvement Solutions for nearly 25 years, we have developed a process that works.  While none of it is new or original, it has helped us move quickly to solutions and quickly to avoid opportunities where we could not provide value.  If you are a Process Improvement Solution provider, we hope this in some small way will help you adjust to the coming changes.

    Topics: Viscosity, Temperature control

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