Many small to medium manufacturers are challenged to manage on-time order delivery. Typically, the area that gets the most scrutiny is the manufacturing floor. However, it is important to look at the entire order to delivery process to understand where there are opportunities for improvement.
The Trouble with Process Deviation
The effort to meet delivery dates actually starts during the sales process and is heavily impacted by setting realistic expectations at the time an order is taken. However, the best way to give the sales rep the ability to set those expectations is to focus on the internal processes and give visibility to backlog and capacity. In many instances, organizations are faced with the dilemma of having a team with great longevity that “just knows” how to get things done. They have established workarounds to processes that fail and manage the work by exception, with almost everything being the exception. In a recent engagement, we were told that the shop floor knew that the specs from engineering were off by 1/8 of an inch, and that they just made the change on the fly. Such crucial information never found its way back to engineering, causing all future drawings and specs to include the same error.
Room for Improvement
A complete business process review should occur to improve delivery. Existing process documentation should be reviewed and understood, creating a baseline understanding for the effort. The review should prompt the creation of process flow diagrams that indicate how work is being completed. It is not uncommon for these diagrams to be a deviation from the published processes. As the completion of flow diagrams takes place, your team can highlight areas for improvement and create and prioritize a list to address areas that will positively impact on-time delivery.
Key areas in an on-time delivery expectation include purchasing, material receipt and flow to put away or the manufacturing floor, job scheduling, and communications/visibility. Each of these areas is critical to success. Below are further tips to improve each area:
- Purchasing: Purchasing must have a good working knowledge of the product line, and if solutions are engineered, they must work closely with engineering to understand any custom or special order components.
- Materials flow: Materials flowing into the facility must be managed carefully. In small shops, we have seen instances where materials are taken before receipt and, in some cases, being employed for the wrong jobs.
- Job scheduling: Job scheduling is critical and should be a focus. Make sure you have a starts control process, avoiding the trap of starts and stops as you wait for materials or information.
- Communications: Make certain that everyone knows priorities, that critical information is disseminated, and that successes are recognized.