The calendar has turned over, 2018 is here and you’re counting on newly approved budgets to drive some big orders and fill your pipeline for a healthy ramp up to Spring!

Here are a couple of New Year’s Resolutions that you should keep in mind as you clean the slate, start fresh, and finally finish with your inventory count.

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Resolution #1: We will not let production delays impact shipping deadlines.

Whoa. That’s an awful big promise to make right out of the gate. It’s the domino effect, right? Everything looks good when the parts go to the shop but when everything is on the floor there is a communication breakdown. Poorly documented or difficult to understand prints and assembly instructions are the low hanging fruit to conquer this problem. Consider what tools you’re using to create this documentation and perhaps create a task force internally charged with bridging the gap between the office and the floor.   No business ever suffered because of over-communication!

If misunderstood instructions were the only issue, this would be an easy fix but it’s not. Engineering change orders and modifications to the scope of work mid-stream can quickly throw a project into upheaval. So what systems do you have in place now to manage how those changes are communicated? Are you addressing the flow of communication between the project managers and the customer too? Are you setting realistic expectations or writing added protection into contracts that insulate you from penalty when the customer changes their mind? Some organizations have a hard time with this subject because you want to win the business! Resolve in 2018 to have more real conversations with your customers about expectations and deliverables. It’s better to be transparent up front, than explain that they are the reason the project is late!

Resolution #2: We will get leaner in 2018.

This might be a leftover from a resolution made in 2017…or 2016, or ‘15…Implementing a “lean management” project is something that often gets pushed to the back burner because companies look at it from the wrong perspective. The Process Excellence Network stated way back in 2014 that “The path to lean will not be straight and it never ends. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of being ‘better’ today.” Some would argue that the way to a lean operation starts with a change in the organizational culture. Others would say that lean begins with looking at anything that doesn’t add value to the project and eliminating those components.

Like most resolutions, regardless of the path to get there, the first step is to get started. Consider looking for an outside consultant who can come in and evaluate. Often times it’s challenging to try to solve a problem from the inside, especially if you’ve been a part of the organization for a long time. An outside perspective might help you see things in a new light and provide new ideas to help get you closer to this goal.

The goal is what it all comes back to. What’s the end game for this project? Is it simply to cut costs or are you trying to effect an overall organizational change?   Like Stephen Covey says “Start with the end in mind” and work backwards from there.

Resolution #3: Get more productivity from my workforce.

Managing the right number of employees to the right volume of work is a challenge every business faces. It doesn’t matter if you run a car wash, a McDonald’s, or Tesla Motors. Manufacturers face unique challenges because you need to manage the output of not just people inside the office, the drafters, designers or engineers but also the people on the floor swinging the proverbial hammer and bringing your product to life!

No matter the department, almost all employees respond well when they’re motivated, encouraged and appreciated. Consider what types of relationships exist between the individuals but also the “cliques” in your organization and try to find some commonalities. Starting a “workplace improvement task force” is a great way to empower people and people who feel like they’re making a difference for the organization are going to be more passionate, stay longer, and work harder.

Making sure your staff is well trained is an often overlooked condition for employee satisfaction and productivity. Having confidence in their ability is a massive benefit not only to the employee, but to the company as a whole. Obviously someone who struggles with software or a tool is going to less productive than someone who is well trained.

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Any resolution you make will fail if you don’t hold yourself accountable. Set manageable goals, meet often with key stakeholders to make sure they’re being met or find out why they aren’t. The slate is clean and the time is now, so grab 2018 by the horns and make it amazing!


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