I had a marketing person ask me a few years ago what it was that we did at Saint Clair Systems. When I described what we did, he had one question for me. After a brief pause, he asked, “So what?” Initially, I thought he was just being rude but then I realized that he was trying to get me to clarify why what we do is important and who it is important to. I know that in a lot of our blogs we discuss the importance of quality, consistency and repeatability but as I read some of them, I find myself asking the same question; so what? This blog is an example of a so what.
Earlier this year, we had a potential customer contact us because they were having trouble maintaining a consistent bead of sealer. This sealer was applied to a much larger assembly they were supplying to their customer. After briefly helping them understand how our systems worked and how they improved the quality, consistency and repeatability of their manufacturing process, I began asking questions about scrap rate and the cost of scrapping the larger assembly. They stopped me. They didn’t really care about the cost of scrapping an assembly, they wanted to get directly to their so what.
The product they were producing was high volume. Over a million assemblies per year. And yes, scrap was costly, rework was costly, using excess material was costly, everything was costly but that was not why they contacted us. They contacted us because they were unable to meet their promised delivery quantities and their customer was being forced to introduce another supplier. Their so what was that their production issues, applying a small sealer bead to a large assembly, was going to force them to hand business to their competition.
Few things feel worse in business than losing an opportunity to your competition. I think one of those things is winning the opportunity, underperforming, and then involuntarily handing that business back to your competitor.
The good news is, I think we can help them quickly. The bigger lesson for me was to get better at finding out the so what. While saving material, improving quality, and increasing throughput are all great things, each of them targets bigger objectives. These bigger objectives can be things like increasing profit margins, increasing market share, approaching new markets or any number of things that move the big needles. If we can help figure out your so what first, we can determine whether we can have an impact and start a discussion about what working together might look like.