Clear vision leads pathway to success

Channelling efforts into a particular area that has been well-thought out can help companies find success more than sinking funds into unresearched areas. Manufacturers’ Monthly explains.

Lean manufacturing gives companies the push to focus on key aspects that will improve business rather than implementing too much at once. Speakers at the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Leading Through Excellence and Innovation Conference, held in Melbourne in May, spoke about simple, well-thought out strategies giving companies more growth than splurging on technology and processes that won’t result in great benefits.

At the conference, Coles Group store transformation general manager, Michelle Lue-Reid, said companies spend millions of dollars to invest in change, but often half of it will go to waste.

Lue-Reid has worked at Air Canada and various banks, which has given her a wealth of knowledge into how large corporations function. She said one of the problems companies encounter is not having a clear vision.

At a bank Lue-Reid worked at, they were automating a lot of their processes, which she said required a succinct plan to succeed. “When it comes to digital, there’s a lack of clarity. Be really clear about what you want to change in your digital transformation.

“Our customers bank 24/7. Our customers don’t want to stop at the branch. It’s about making it easier for you to do business with us. It takes a lot of work to be able to do that,” she said.

With fierce competition, no matter what sector a company caters to, Lue-Reid explained that companies need to keep up with demand and consumers’ changing tastes.

“We can never go fast enough. We can never react quickly enough. “Focus on the two things that customers think about and do it brilliantly. Forget about the rest. Make sure the solution fits the problem you are trying to solve.

“Do not be afraid to say no. Do not be afraid to kill projects,” she said.

Research from Wipro Digital showed that in 2017, only 50 per cent of companies successfully executed a digital transformation strategy despite demonstrated efforts and investments. Wipro Digital also indicated that a lack of clear transformation strategy was cited by 35 per cent of executives as a key barrier to achieving full digital potential.

To improve a company’s success rate, Lue-Reid said businesses need to relentlessly communicate the vision, stick with it and get people to buy into it.

“Use design-thinking methods focussed on value for the end customer,” she explained.

Part of these methods include fostering deeper and more unconstrained understanding of what customers are looking for, what they value most, defining metrics that will help measure value creation and developing a system to track these metrics.

Sealed Air Smart Factories supply chain executive director, Betsy Kuo, said spending a lot of money on smart solutions that don’t work for a company is a common problem.

Although Kuo had limited knowledge of Industry 4.0 and smart solutions when she took on the role at Sealed Air, she said she possessed a lot of common sense, which helped lead her team to focus on specific aspects that improved the business.

“What we are trying to do is look for a standardised solution.” Kuo pushes for collaborations between IT specialists and operational technology teams to share knowledge and find the best outcomes.

“Trying to make that work and come up with a structured solution was very difficult.” She explained that people need to be prepared to take action and change their mindset to find the best solution for the company.

Coles group store transformation manager, Michelle Lue-Reid.

Focussing on positives, not negatives
Just as Kuo recognised the attributes she brought to her team, despite having less knowledge of Industry 4.0 than others, Anne Koopmann-Schmidt, head of quality at Bombardier, also explained the importance of recognising the best in people and in a company in order to grow.

“If you understand what’s unique about you, you can leverage that.”

She said once individuals recognise their skillset, this will reflect on how well they lead a team. “People need certainty and they need safety.

“We learn in society to focus on weaknesses. When you came home from school and you had a bad mark in math, but everything else was OK, what did your parents talk about? They talked about math and what you needed to do better. If we all just talk about weaknesses, we would all just be average. If you understand your strength you can start to develop,” said Koopmann-Schmidt.

She said that often people are not equipped with the skills to work as first-time managers and they need to learn what makes them a good leader.

“When I was promoted to my first big management role, another guy was promoted to a similar role. He was thirty years older than me and had more technical skills. I was younger, had less experience.

“I felt like an imposter. I felt like I wasn’t good enough until my mentor told me to look at my strengths. When I found my top five strengths, I suddenly realised who I was as a manager.”

In scenarios where frontline managers can often manage up to 80 per cent of a workforce, Koopmann-Schmidt said it is key to equip them with the knowledge they need to maximise their skills and their team’s skills.

Two days of learning from Lean experts
The two-day conference was a chance for managers from various manufacturing companies based in New Zealand and Australia to learn about Lean manufacturing processes that suit their businesses. Speakers included international Lean experts such as Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company director of manufacturing, Billy Taylor, and FastCap president and author of 2 Second Lean, Paul Akers.

The speakers came from a range of companies, including Magic Mobility’s general manager Jill Barnett, Fuji Xerox Australia head of corporate services, Michael Schembri, and Fisher and Paykel Healthcare NZ operations manager, David Fargier.