4 Key Initiatives Every Operations Leader Should Actively Pursue Now

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Frequently I will hear an operations leader say, “We will lean out our operations when things slow down.” Well, for some of you, things have slowed down, so now is the time to ensure that when the market picks up, your organization can respond quickly. Focus your attention on the right initiatives: developing your team, purposefully executing and organizing your operations, and managing your inventory.

Use this list as an aid to map out your action plan for driving meaningful change across your organization. Start by doing a gap assessment of what you have in place now. Use the results of the gap assessment to prioritize your actions, assign responsibilities and establish a timeline for completion. Don’t bite off too much too fast, but do make sure all levels of the organization are actively doing their part to put these elements in place.

  • Ensure that all employees have a clear understanding of the foundational elements that make up the organization’s mission, vision and culture.
  • Install huddle boards for each work team to promote 15-minute daily huddles to review SQDC (Safety, Quality, Delivery and Cost) performance and goals for the day.
  • Use PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) to drive frequent incremental improvement using a Toyota Kata approach to create a continuous learning culture.
  • Train leads, supervisors and managers how to break down jobs, conduct job instruction and manage relations with their people for jobs that are critical to achieving quality and production goals (TWI-JI and JR).
  • Use a process such as Hoshin Planning to align resources, focus improvement activities and measure performance toward achieving strategic goals.
  • Hold monthly Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) reviews to ensure that future supply and capacity plans are in sync with the demand plan forecast.
  • Map Value Streams and assign owners for all major product families to drive improvements in lead time and first pass quality.
  • Reduce change-over times on critical bottleneck equipment to improve throughput.
  • Install daily operator checklists, post single point lessons (SPL) and create preventive maintenance (PM) plans to maintain high uptime on key equipment.
  • Conduct a Red Tag event to identify unneeded or infrequently used parts, materials, tools, equipment, etc. and get them removed from the area (SORT).
  • Rearrange the workplace – shop floor and office spaces – to smooth out flow and reduce floor space used (SET).
  • Clean, maintain and repair all needed equipment, tools and resources and upgrade workplace ergonomics (e.g., lighting, tool balancers, height adjusting tables, etc.) to improve operator stamina and communications (SHINE).
  • Label, color code, identify home positions, define quality standards and install point-of-use (POU) devices to identify what is needed at-a-glance at a hand-grab away (STANDARDIZE).
  • Implement visual communication aids (e.g., SQDC boards, Goal-Actual boards, Accountability boards, etc.) to maintain focus and performance (SUSTAIN).
  • Analyze inventory (raw and finished goods) to identify, reduce and eliminate SLow moving and OBsolete inventory (SLOB).
  • Implement Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) for bench stock, standard consumables and select raw materials.
  • Install First-In-First-Out (FIFO) lanes/racks to maintain order priority integrity.
  • Utilize a Supermarket pull system with Kanban replenishment signals to authorize production and control WIP build-up.
  • Install a Production Leveling system to level loads across critical capacity constraints.

By taking these steps to make incremental changes in your operation now, you will be able to respond more quickly to customer demands as the markets improve.


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