an affordable approach to Business Excellence

I’d like to post some short notes from my work once in a while from now on.

My company could be called mid-sized. Which means we are a reasonable number of professionals, with a reasonable depth of resources—enough to aspire for growth, but lacking resources that we’d like for some other things we’d like to do.

For generating the knowhow for achieving Business Excellence, for instance. To create a toolkit for it.

Some years ago, we decided that the best approach to meet expectations of all stakeholders is Lean Manufacturing. The practice of lean manufacturing achieves for you a dramatically reduced cost while securing quality and delivery reliability, which leads to increased customer satisfaction, and hence more business, and more profits—which lead to stakeholder satisfaction all round. But how do we implement Lean Manufacturing? We went about doing what we could afford: we read Liker and Womack in group sessions, which was a good exercise, because it increased our understanding of the subject, and reinforced its indisputable usefulness, but in spite of the practical advise in the books we were taking too long to devise a set of tools and an overarching approach to implement and sustain Lean Manufacturing.

Sometime then, United Technologies became our customer. They are a Fortune 500 company, and a committed practioner of Lean. To perfect their understanding and practice of Lean, they established long ago a learning center—the Ito University, founded by a Japanese professional, the late Ito—which evolved an operating system based on Lean Manufacturing which UTC has named ACE, or Achieving Competitive Excellence. UTC share the ACE technique with those suppliers who are willing to learn it.

We decided: Abandon all other initiatives: If UTC have poured millions of dollars into ACE, and if great minds are constantly evolving ACE toward perfection and, as we have seen, if ACE has created fine manufacturing units for UTC all round the world, and if UTC are willing to teach us the technique, then let’s put all our faith in ACE and strive to surpass UTC factories. More than two years have passed since we took that decision, and our faith in ACE has grown. We are not yet near our goal: UTC call their best practitioners of ACE as their ACE Gold Sites, and we are some distance from being as good as the Gold Sites, but we are winners of the UTC Supplier Gold—the first manufacturer in India, 92nd in the world. That puts us at least on square one, or maybe some squares ahead, and it has surely put us on a speedy path to Lean.

They say that if you terribly want to do something, and you are desperately seeking someone who'll show you the way, then in time a guru will appear. In business, the guru is quite often the customer. If you have taken care to win the very best customers, you are set to find the greatest guru.


See also: Ramadorai at the UTC Annual Supplier Conference, New Delhi, 9-Nov-2011.