Copyright 2008 © The Manufacturing Optimization Group; all rights reserved.
World Class Manufacturing is NOT just for the Big Guys!
By James Shearer
The term “world class manufacturing” (WCM) is frequently bantered about and is often used to describe a company that has achieved a perceived, but largely undefined, level of performance. If WCM is undefined, why even think about, discuss, or seek to become world class? By inference, the term means to be truly excellent at the operational aspects of manufacturing. In today’s highly competitive, global marketplace, few would argue that being truly excellent is not only a desirable trait but increasingly a requirement to survive and prosper, even for a small-to-midsized manufacturer.
Manufacturing has long been, and still remains, a major growth engine for our economy. For the sake of this article, a manufacturer is a company (or facility or department within a company) of any size, large or small, that, by using equipment and/or labor, transforms materials or components from one form into another.
Within the vast community of manufacturers, what makes some “world class” and others not? The answer is that since there is no universally agreed-upon definition or standard of world class manufacturing, there is also no clear agreement on who is, and who is not, world class.
To at least put some structure to WCM, consider the following premise: WCM is not a milestone or destination, it is not a certificate program, and there is no Board of Regents to confer membership in the club. It is, instead, an ongoing, never-ending journey toward total operational excellence. By looking at it this way, the very nature of what it takes to be world class begins to take on an entirely new and different meaning. World class becomes a structured philosophy of how to conduct business, and eventually it becomes a culture that is fully embedded into the fiber of the organization. This premise applies equally to manufacturing companies of all sizes.
Over the years, Dr. Richard Schonberger, a noted expert on manufacturing excellence, has offered several different definitions or explanations of world class manufacturing. Among them are these three: -“Citius, altius, fortius.” (Faster, higher, stronger - the motto of the Olympic Games). -“Ever better quality, ever quicker response, ever greater flexibility, and ever higher value.” -“Customer-focused, employee-driven, data-based continuous improvement.”
In analyzing these definitions and other aspects of truly exceptional manufacturing performance, the following four building blocks begin to emerge as encompassing attributes that are a practical, workable interpretation of world class manufacturing:
How does a small-to-midsized company embed this world class culture into its very fiber? There are four sequential steps that will drive the adoption of each of the above building blocks of world class manufacturing. They are:
Culture change in an organization, especially a culture change of the magnitude necessary to become world class, is not an easy or quick task. To implement a major quality imperative alone can take several years, and in the approach to world class performance discussed above, the quality aspect is but one of four required elements. Therefore, becoming world class does not happen overnight!
However, given that world class manufacturing is a journey and not a destination; given that the four building blocks listed above arguably constitute one very workable, pragmatic approach to become world class; given that the four sequential steps of adoption, also listed above, are a straight-forward, effective way to begin; and given that a world class manufacturer will inherently have a significant, maybe even sustainable point-of-differentiation ensuring survival and prosperity; why wouldn’t any manufacturing business, large or small, begin the journey today?
Copyright © James Shearer, 2004. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 02/10/08
Copyright © 2004 The Manufacturing Optimization Group