Need For Speed

I Feel The Need For Speed!
An Open Letter to Employees of Companies Going Through “The Change”

There’s been plenty written recently about the need for rapid change: re-engineering, “right Sizing”, etc.   Most of the writing, however, has been aimed at corporate management.

This article is addressed to the employees.

Why The Need For Rapid Change?

Just what is the basis for this sudden clamoring for “revolution”?   To answer this question we must first go back to basics.

Truth is, just about all business revolves about the “Law of the Jungle”.   Only the fittest survive.

Business is a true democracy.   We, the customers of the world, decide which companies succeed, and which fail, based on our “dollar votes”.   The companies that are better than their competitors in price, quality, speed, and/or reliability get our “votes” through our buying decisions.   Those companies that do not get enough “votes” wither and die.

OK, so we agree that we need to continuously improve.   But why the sudden sense of urgency?

Well, you really don’t need to change very rapidly, just as long as your competition does the same.   The problem is:   1) the competitors are starting to improve, often dramatically, and   2) it’s becoming a world marketplace.   We no longer compete only with Joe’s machine shop down the road.   We also compete with the Japanese, Taiwanese, Koreans, Mexicans, and on and on.

Well, for Pete’s sake, just how fast can our competition really change anyhow?   I mean what’s the odds of our competitors making any significant improvement in less than five years?

Perhaps a few a real case examples from some of our clients will answer this question:

  • Printed Circuit Boards:   Two week cycle time cut to two days.   90% yield improvement.   50% space reduction.   10% cost reduction.   Done in six weeks!
  • Personalized pocket calendars:   Two week cycle cut to four hours.   50% space reduction.   Tripled the output of the plant from the same facility and equipment.   Cost of quality reduced 90%.
    20% productivity gain.   Done in one year.
  • Stainless steel:   $120,000,000 inventory reduction.   Percent on-time delivery improved from in the 60’s, to in the 90’s.   Customer response time cut 40%.   Done in twenty-four months.
  • High pressure valves:   Changed from “make to stock” to “make to order”.   Two day lead time cut to same day.   Elimination of $500,000 inventory.   30% space reduction.   Productivity and quality gains.   Done in six weeks.

I could list a hundred more examples.   The sad truth is that many companies today are not really very good at any of the primary buying decision factors (Cost, Quality, Speed, and Reliability):   Their prices are too high (because their costs are too high), their quality is not “World Class”, their delivery performance is far from perfect, and their lead times are either too long, or are compensated for by carrying costly inventory.

The good news is that these performance characteristics can, in most companies, be dramatically improved, in an extremely short period of time!   The examples listed above are not the rare exceptions.   They are the rule.

The bad news is that these same improvements are probably equally available to your competitor.

The point I’m trying to make is that the nice level playing field we’re on today can be upset virtually overnight.   And once you get behind, it’s really tough to catch up.   Companies have literally gone under before they knew what hit them!

The other side of the coin is, if your company is the first to make the rapid changes discussed, dramatic growth and opportunity becomes the forecast!

Continuous improvement has always been a necessity.   Today, however, it must be slightly amended.   Today, Rapid Dramatic Improvement, is demanded for success, company well-being, and quite possibly, survival.   It’s in your own best interest to support, encourage, maybe even initiate such change.   The time to do so is now!.

Over the coming weeks and months you’ll be introduced to a number of concepts and techniques that will, in some cases, be completely opposite to what you’ve done, and perhaps even been taught, in the past.   We invite you to question and challenge these concepts.   But we also ask you to keep an open mind and be willing to try some new approaches.   After all:

If you keep doing the same things, You’ll likely keep getting the same results!

Jack B. Harrison
Senior Partner
The Hands-On Group

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