One of the most important puzzles in the minds of manufacturing leaders today is – how to create an organisation (product/offerings, facilities & capable people) which can have long-term competitive advantages. This has become more relevant in the current world where changes are rapid & too many, and one does not know what is going to hit & when.
While it may be relatively simple to scan the environment & come out with a competitive business proposal, the difficult part is – how to change & align with rapidly changing environments. Success is not only based on your ability to change or align with the environment, but it is the ability to maintain a speed of change, preferably ahead of your competition. It’s not the absolute numbers but your relative position with others is which matters.
We are used to common answers for success, it was ‘productivity & efficiency’ when I entered the industry during 80s, then ‘quality’ became the buzzword for success; everybody talked about inspection to quality control to quality assurance and to TQM. After that, answer for every question was Six Sigma, BIQ, continual improvement & lean using TPS/TPM, etc. Currently it’s all about digitisation, Industry 4.0, smart factory, connected factory, etc. All the above mentioned are enablers which will change with time & needs to be implemented. However, the bigger picture which needs to be kept in mind is that enabler should not become objective but should help us to achieve objectives which are price, quality & time, that have not changed.
Similarly, leaders believe – to remain ahead & competitive the answer is ‘innovation’ and more than that it is ‘disruptive innovation’. It is important to have disruptive innovation to leapfrog, but advantages may not last long. Two reasons, first – others will copy fast, and second – the environment may change totally. It is important for organisations to improve every day more than their competitors to maintain an edge. Both disruptive innovation & small improvements are important for long term results.
The important question is how do we have that?
I still remember when we were in engineering colleges, we were taught ‘Time Motion Study (work of Taylor & Gilbreth)’ and all discussions revolved around improving efficiency & establishing employee productivity standards. The main point was how to use four limbs of a person to get the best output. Then, had a chance to learn from teachings of Philip B. Crosby during my tenure with Toyota, it taught me how we can get brain of employees to innovate i.e. share & implement ideas (Kaizen), however small the improvement maybe, but collectively it can make a huge difference, and can help raise morale for the team. Now, what I have learnt during my journey with M&M is that employees have heart too, when you get their heart & brain together to play with a clear purpose then you can create unbeatable teams. Such teams will align with the organisational goal, work with a purpose of excelling and are highly motivated to overcome challenges.
To conclude, it is all about creating winning teams where employees work for purpose and are supported with product/offerings which are ahead of market trends & equipped with current equipment, processes and best practices as enablers. Capability to win, is both, a science & an art. Science is easy to learn but art of winning is imbibed in an organisational culture; which makes it difficult to replicate.