By: Paul Van Metre
In a recent blog post, I wrote about what to do when you have rejected parts from a customer. From the customer’s perspective, it’s all in the response and how you handle the situation and provide them with confidence that it won’t happen again. Internally, this is just as important. If you’re quick to assign blame and point fingers to an individual when a failure happens, then you’re missing out on an amazing opportunity to build up your team, rather than tearing them down. Whether a failure gets to the customer or not, the learning opportunity is the same, it’s the process that needs improving and is the only way that long-term improvement will take place! That responsibility for process improvement lands squarely on the shoulders of the leadership of the company. The buck stops at the top always!
With relatively few exceptions, employees are there at work to do a great job and try their best every day. To achieve those great results, employees should be following the company processes and systems that have been put in place to ensure the results are as repeatable as possible. If the results are not good enough, then one of the following might be the problem.
- Not Following the Process – Processes are in place but aren’t strictly adhered to, leading to the processes not being executed properly, and thus failures. The culture of the company lacks discipline, a focus on training (module link), and the leadership isn’t good at ensuring adherence is high.
- No Process – The systems or processes didn’t exist in the first place. Employees are just winging it the best they can, and experience can possibly get them through for a while. Failure is guaranteed.
- Bad Process – The systems exist and people are following them, but they aren’t working properly and they either need more sophistication to deal with unusual situations, or they are confusing or difficult to follow (or both). Processes are crudely created, leaving large gaps that need to be figured out on a routine basis. If a situation arises that has anything unusual about it the process will break down and lead to failures
Process Failure Example
Let’s use the example of preparing all the quality documentation for a shipment. Many clients need a formal FAI like an AS9102 report, any-and-all related certifications that have come with materials and special processes, and possibly a balloon-tagged copy of the drawing. If a client receives a shipment without all the necessary paperwork, then it’s likely because the employee who prepared the document package either wasn’t certain exactly what paperwork was required by this specific client, or when they went to gather the documentation, it wasn’t readily available. In either case, it’s the process that needs to be made more robust, or better training is needed (which is also a failure in the process). Lack of clarity in what an employee needs to do is a failure of the systems of the organization – in this case, possibly the employee didn’t know what paperwork to send. When there is abundant clarity but the result is still not up to standard, then that is the failure of the system as well – in this case, possibly the employee knew what paperwork to send but it wasn’t available to them.
Tribal Knowledge Failures
Most companies are rife with tribal knowledge. This is information that is necessary for managing the company, the jobs, client requirements, and more that is not captured in a systematic and scalable manner. The fact that this information resides in people’s heads, sticky notes, personal documents or spreadsheets, will lead to certain failures on a frequent and ongoing basis. How often have you had failures because an employee is covering for someone on vacation or sick leave? If you’re like most shops, it happens all the time. These failures of tribal knowledge could fall under all 3 of the categories above. Often these failures can be attributed to bad tools, like software, which aren’t well suited to the task at hand and lack features to be able to capture all the relevant information and share it with the right people at the right time. If you research a recent failure in your company and get to the root cause, it will often lead to discovering that the software and systems you’re using lack the ability to properly handle your needs.
Remember that most employees care deeply about doing a great job. They try their best given the tools, processes, and systems they’ve been offered by the company. They don’t intend to make mistakes or cause failures. So when they inevitably do happen, take a deep breath, talk through the details and be curious about getting to the root cause of the system or process failure. Doing this with grace, understanding, humility, and kindness will ensure that you can turn those mistakes into stronger connections with your team, and improvements in the process. That’s a formula for long-term success!
How Can ProShop Help?
Most manufacturers who use an ERP system, are using one with a strong foundation in accounting, but that often lacks the features and capabilities to successfully manage the manufacturing process well enough. If the system relies on paper travelers, that alone is a prime indication that it’ll be insufficient to manage all the requirements that can result in failures of the process with quality, customer flowdowns, inspection requirements, etc. In the example above with the AS9102 report, all the proper documentation requirements are configured at the customer profile in ProShop, and then automatically flowed down to all client work orders. So preparing a perfect document package is as simple as clicking a single button and every relevant FAI (for multi-level BOMs), all certs, a copy of the balloon tagged drawing, and a perfectly formatted Certificate of Conformance will be generated automatically. This is just one example of how we develop rock-solid workflows and processes that dramatically reduce the chance of failures in the process.
When a shop is fully implemented with ProShop, the typical stressful rush of reactive fire-fighting which often leads to mistakes is replaced with calm, stress-free, proactive workflows, with all the important details and information at everyone’s fingertips. If that sounds appealing to you, book a demo with our team today!