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Don’t Blame the Plant for Late Shipments


Framingham, MA – April 14, 2005. Many manufacturing companies find themselves trapped in a crisis-to-crisis mode of operation, constantly firefighting. The entire organization becomes highly reactive, patching problems rather than working proactively to sustain performance gains by eliminating the root causes that are often outside the control of the manufacturing function.

Management consultant, Mike Donovan of R. Michael Donovan & Co, says “Although manufacturing is often perceived to be the biggest problem in the supply chain, the reality is frequently different. Ripple effects that create chaos manifest themselves as problems on the production floor, but the root causes are often in other areas. Manufacturing is typically just one of many weak links in the total enterprise, including the “extended” enterprise of all supply chain partners.” The upshot is:
-- Changing priorities create unplanned long cycle times
-- Product demand doesn’t match the forecasts on which material procurement and production schedules have been based
-- Upstream suppliers of raw materials and sub-assemblies don’t meet revised delivery schedules
-- Bottlenecks that slow material flow result in higher inventories
-- Product specification problems create delays that lead to expensive rework

Chaotic operations don’t have to define the way a manufacturing company does business. What progressive manufacturing companies are learning is that breaking the cycle requires a program of intense self-examination involving thorough and professional analysis of the company’s overall business and manufacturing processes and systems. The assessment must include considerations of procurement policies and procedures, partners and relationships, manufacturing, transportation and logistics concerns, ordering and inventory policies, sales and customer service policies, product development and release issues, engineering change processes, and overall management objectives and expectations.

While this assessment can be internal, involving the company’s own executives and management team, it is often helpful to bring in external resources – supply chain experts with experience solving similar problems and an objective view uncolored by internal politics or history. Outside resources can provide benchmark reference points of how others are managing various aspects of their businesses. Shifting the focus away from the plant’s internal struggles and onto the root causes of production delays and disruptions will pay big dividends in moving the plant toward world-class performance.


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