Ask the same question about a great manufacturing process and the response is often exactly the same.
What does that mean in the real world?
At its most basic, it means that a great manufacturing process, or a bad one, doesn’t comprise one thing, although there may be elements that exert disproportional effects.
Good or bad, what often counts is the myriad elements that establish the status quo. A journey is, after all, more than a single step.
The reason I’m dwelling on this subject is that I have been given cause to think about such things following an exhaustive review of one of our lines.
One thing I have learned is that ‘good’ is a relative term. If you don’t know what the ‘best’ looks like, then something less may seem fine. Conversely, if you don’t know what ‘bad’ looks like, then a marginal improvement can look just right.
We operate complex and highly sophisticated production machinery and processes in order to develop, manufacture and deliver exceptional products to our customers. That means there’s always room for small changes to make disproportionately large impacts. Good or bad.
If a process isn’t as the operator expects, the temptation is to tweak things to get the desired result. But what if that result isn’t the one a succeeding operator feels the need to achieve. Potentially more tweaks and changes until, several operators in, what’s good and what’s bad may be looking slightly blurred.
I exaggerate of course: we use Route cards to capture processes in order that they can be replicated over and over again. We follow the science; and we follow the numbers. But few processes are wholly infallible so it’s incumbent on everyone in the production process to ensure standards are maintained.
As a matter of priority, we review the lines not weekly but daily.
And that cascades throughout the team involved. The Line Supervisors review daily, as does the Production Manager. The Operations Director reviews 2-3 times a week, and I do the same.
Not just for one week, or two. Not even for a month or two. To keep the lines on track and performing at their best, the commitment is for all time.
Of course it’s exhausting, and it takes a huge amount of energy to keep it up. But the rewards are incalculable. A poor production day means lost time, inefficient working and, worst of all, unhappy customers.
So if you ask the question, ‘can you keep it up’ the answer is simple – can we afford not to?
MD of Fourayes, Vice Chairman of British Apples & Pears and Fruitician