Bringing back a competitive edge to chemical business

Paul Boughton

David Dyer seeks to illustrate the holistic rather than piecemeal approach needed to business improvement. He also attempts to show that taking a longer term view provides better sustainability for the business than taking shorter term actions. The organisation in question has been in existence for over 50 years and has in the past been very profitable. It is now faced with strong competition from the Far East.

A strategic and detailed review of the site was conducted which ultimately determined that the site was still viablecould compete and had a future that would extend to 2008 minimum.

To achieve this however did require some drasticbut controlled measures. This resulted in the workforce being reduced by over 30percent. With less people and more prioritiesbetter customer service needed to become the order of the day.

In the pastattempts to implement change had been too short term or had limited success. If the business didn't want to go down that same path againit needed to do things differently. This meant it needed to equip its people with the skills to deal with and cope with the changes that were heading their way – and it had to do it fast. From now on continuous improvement needed to become the norm if the business was going to improve its performance and output and everyone was going to have to ‘step up to the plate’ and be countedbut it was not going to be easy.

Six areas were identified that needed addressing: restructure the organisation around the new manning levels; eliminate work that does not add value; implement a management control and reporting system; change behaviour and attitudes by developing all levels of management; become a continuous improvement organisation; get communication working for the benefit of the business

Howeverall these areas must be made to work together and not against each other. The activities that followed were designed to allow the organisation to function at its desired size and still achieve its output targets.

Parallel and sequential activities

There were a number of activities running in parallel and sequentially: visioning and goal planning with fully representative selection of the workforce gaining buy-in; communication of the compelling need by senior managers of the parent company to everyone; visible continuation of planned capital improvement projects; introduction of loss accounting and management (recordingevaluating and action taking) to target improvement activities; value stream mapping to identify where ‘waste’ could be eliminated; cross-functionalfacilitatedimprovement teams to effect major changes in manufacturing and other operations (to identify and implement high value improvements that required minimal or no capital; across the board continuous improvement awareness training; specific training and development for the middle management team; performance coaching for the senior management team.

And the results? these included: output tonnage and rate achieved and exceeded; on time in full (OTIF) measuredattacked and rising; on target to meet financial goals; successfully operating at reduced manpower levels; targeted improvement activities on-going; greater engagement of the whole workforce; management style based on standards of behaviour; better communication methods in place; updown and across the organisation; an organisation focused on continuedsustained improvement.

David Dyer is a Senior ConsultantABB Engineering ServicesBillinghamUK.


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