Industrial Interim Management – Gastartikel Richard L Jones
A Case of Industrial Interim Management
In my first month of joining a manufacturing company as a PC Network Systems manager the head of Information Technology called me into his office. “We have a problem”, he said, “ We are implementing a new warehouse stock control system, the implementation has to be successful and for the last two years every attempted implementation has ended in failure.” Since this had nothing to do with my area of responsibility, I looked at him with a puzzled expression. “What has this got to do with me ?” I said. “We want you to do the implementation”, he said, “And it HAS to be successful.”
So I left his office feeling that I had been handed a poisoned chalice. The software had been written by a third party, that had failed in all their previous implementations and I had one week to find out how the system worked and how to implement it.
I went straight to the representative of the software house who was onsite at the time and asked for a verbal overview of the system. We discussed the functionality of the system which was just a simple stock control system for the warehouse and the factory floor. The software was already installed on the IBM midrange system and was working correctly. It just had to be fed the stock level information of every component at every stage of the manufacturing process, which meant that there was a massive amount of data input that had to be input with absolute accuracy. I assumed that this would be done by bar-coding or automated in some way. To my horror I discovered that the data had to be supplied by the fork lift truck drivers and manufacturing machine operators filling in hundreds of paper forms.
Now, in manufacturing it is notoriously difficult to get fork lift truck drivers to fill in forms at all, let alone correctly. I was very worried as it seemed almost certain that the implementation would result in yet another disaster.
So I went into the factory and found the factory foreman and told him about the worries that I had regarding the new system. “Is there any way to get the fork lift truck drivers to fill in the forms correctly, all the time?” I said.
To my surprise he said,” There is a way.” “You will have to make them realise that you are serious about having the forms filled correctly and the only way to do that is to get the Boss Man, the Financial Controller to tell them how important it is”.
I doubted that such a strategy would work, but there was no better option and so we decided to arrange a mass meeting in the factory where the Financial Controller could speak to all the fork lift truck drivers. This was not a simple event to arrange as we could not allow the meeting to interrupt factory production. It had to be done at a shift change so that the truck drivers from the morning shift and the afternoon shift could both be present. Also the meeting would prevent any transfer of materials while it was being held and so stockpiles of certain components had to be built up at manufacturing workstations to ensure continuous production.
I arranged for the Financial Controller to attend the meeting along with some of the line managers and the head of Information Technology. On the day, the management met ahead of the workforce so that I could brief the Financial Controller on the necessity to stress that the stock level forms had to be completed accurately at every stage of the production process every single time that components were moved.
When the shift change was sounded everyone squeezed into the large factory assembly room. There were fork lift truck drivers perched on some racking as the room was full. The meeting went like clockwork. I explained the system and what was needed to be done and the Financial Controller emphasised the absolute importance of filling the forms correctly every time.
The workforce left and the Financial Controller turned on me absolutely furious and said “Don’t ever bring me to a meeting with the like’s of them again”.
I was shocked by his reaction and the cause of the failure of previous implementations immediately became apparent.
The next week the system was implemented. I waited in dread for a phone call as it would not take long for problems to arise if the data was not accurately collected and input. Nothing happened on Monday. On Tuesday I could not wait any longer and went to check on the reporting of the stock levels. To my amazement the stock levels were correct and the system was functioning flawlessly. The factory foreman had been right and our implementation was the first success in two years.
by Richard L. Jones
Interim Management Köln