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Prahalad Chandrasekharan
November 17, 2016

ARTICLE: Operations Improvement: Common sense is thy name!

Operations Improvement: Lean, TPM, TOC, Six Sigma, WCM…the list is endless and so are opportunities to improve!

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Let us take a look at the foundation of each one of these improvement methodologies. Fundamentally for any organization with growth aspirations, there should be a reason to exist and a reason to improve. The reason to exist and improve is to make money now and in future.

If the organization has to make money now and in future, it needs to have more business coming its way, either in the form of more orders from the same customers or in the form of additions to the customer list. So the improvement actions should be constantly directed towards sustaining existing business and growing by winning more orders. As simple as that!

In order for this to happen the organization needs to have all the core and support functions, including vendors, to be aligned to give the customer the product/service that they want on a value for money basis, so that there can be an assured business now and in the future. Wait a minute, is this enough? Oh, yes, in order for this to happen we must make sure that the organization exists now and in the future to create this kind of customer experience. This brings me to the next important point: We need to serve the customers in such a way that our cost structures are competitive that would let us exist now as well as in future.

All of the improvement methodologies have only this as the foundation: Serve your customers well and remain competitive in terms of cost structures. Commonsense, is it not?

If the end objective is serving customers well with a competitive cost structure, it goes without saying that we should not have wastes hampering the flow of value to the customer, should not have inconsistencies in value delivery to the customer that may hamper costs or value to the customer, should focus on those crucial links (constraints) in the system that have a potential to hamper service delivery, have everyone in the organization involved and aligned towards the common goal, build flexibility in the system to be closer to market demands.

What frequently comes to our mind when thinking about these improvement methodologies is :

  1. Lean talks about eliminating wastes and being agile
  2. Six Sigma talks about consistency
  3. TOC talks about leveraging constraints immaterial of whether they either exist within or outside
  4. TPM talks about employee involvement and reliability
  5. WCM talks about built-in flexibility
  6. And so on…

The above are fundamental underpinnings of these improvement initiatives. I am not saying that these improvement initiatives do not talk of anything else apart from what is mentioned above.

I am not debating here if these initiatives are mutually exclusive. In fact, if these are mutually exclusive, we might end up only having a partial improvement and that too in a very unsustainable way. Implementers of each of these methodologies understand that improvements have to happen holistically and they have been advocating this in their implementation as well. They know for sure that even if one link is missing, sustenance becomes difficult.

Having implemented several of these concepts myself, I can vouch for the fact that the initiatives are not mutually exclusive, and a combination of the underlying philosophies works best. In fact, cost of ignored missing links is very prohibitive and differentiates successful implementations from not so successful ones.

The moot point is that, all of the fundamental underpinnings of these initiatives have similar thought processes. All of them have customer focus as a central theme and flawless and cost-effective service/product delivery as a goal.

Then why so many names? Call the initiative by any other name?: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

Then do we just call it Common Sense?

On a lighter vein, how about Green Belt, Black Belt and Master Black Belt in Common Sense?!

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