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  Manufacturing Insights   |   April, 2012
The Overlooked Kaizen Event: Communications and Marketing
by Thomas R. Cutler
 



The best manufacturing organizations become catalysts for improvement. These roadmaps for change must go beyond the plant floor. Thinking beyond strict lean principles of continuous process improvement, requires a constant examination of all areas within the manufacturing operation.

H. James Harrington, a change management thought leader said, "You can manage change or it will manage you. The choice is yours." The corollary to this sentiment is, "You can tell your story or not, your competitor will."

For the past fifteen years, as a journalist, thousands of manufacturing operations have been witnessed, monitored, and reported in hundreds of publications. So many companies have done a great job implement lean approaches into the operation. Lead is defined as the elimination of all non-value-added activities from the business. Lean enterprise extends this concept through the entire value stream or supply chain.

Somehow the notion of lean manufacturing rarely continues through to the communications and marketing functions. Companies do a very poor job, in general, telling their manufacturing story. Manufacturing, often lead by engineers or operations oriented thinking, neglects to emphasize what is being done well. The kaizen event that may restructure the work flow, ordering efficiencies through kanban pull systems, or tight inventory monitoring through ERP (enterprise resource planning), rarely stops at the door to public relations, trade shows, marketing materials, newsletters, sales effectiveness.

Automation as the Message

There is rarely a manufacturing company that has not undergone significant automation change in the past several years. Whether electronic, systems, robotics, or material handling, automation changes are obvious areas of process improvement. These lean automation programs constantly reflect the notion of doing better. It is the kernel, the source of voluminous communication and message opportunities on the part of manufacturers. Automation suppliers and strategic partners have a vested interest in profiling how these new solutions and technologies have transformed operations. Listing the top ten automation improvements over the past 24 months starts the communication messaging of best practice.

Marcom Motivation

Enterprise-wide every person, employee, manager, owner, client, consultant, supplier, customer has something to share about the company THIS WEEK. There are successes to report every week within these best practice organizations. There are policies, procedures, wins, successes, efficiencies, satisfied customers, that merit at least a press release, often a feature article, and perhaps an award. Organizations that have a lean initiative, a leadership team, must include documentation weekly of the "good news." What might seem trivial is not. What might seem a minor improvement, measured by a customer re-ordering due to good customer service or prompt on-time product delivery, merits communication; public affirmation of successful choices.

Sustaining Excellence via Communication

Achieving and sustaining excellence through leadership development and communication is critical. The simple act of acknowledge the internal stakeholders publicly creates a level of accountability as well as reward, trust, and confidence that lean thinking is part of the organization.

Awards

Not all manufacturing organizations merit an award. Not all awards are equally beneficial to the organization. Too often the subtext of a manufacturing award may be to purchase advertising, purchase award event tables, or other remuneration. The goal of the first annual TR Cutler Manufacturing Award, just launched, is to allow companies, large or small, worldwide, regardless of industry sector, to share best practices. The rationale for the award is to get manufacturers into a new habit of telling, sharing, communicating successes.

At the end of the year the company will select some of the top processes shared, profiling some of the lean best practices in a series of feature articles in leading industrial publications. There are no fees, charges, or financial requirements to participate in the award.

Like abdominal work at the gym, this constant messaging, may seem tedious, tiresome, and will not necessarily prove immediately effective in lead generation. Over time this communication behavior will yield huge benefits in credibility, attitude, behavior, perspective, and competitive awareness. It will shorten sales cycles among prospective customers and create distinct rationale for working with a particular company.

Henry Ford suggested, "It is the little things that are hard to see - the awkward little methods of doing things that have grown up and which no one notices. And since manufacturing is solely a matter of detail, these little things develop, when added together, into very big things."


Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., (www.trcutlerinc.com). Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 4000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, and Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler is the most published freelance industrial journalist worldwide recently established the 1st Annual Manufacturing Award. Cutler can be contacted at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com. See More Details.

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