Mastering Effective Daily Management in Supply Chain and Engineering

Monday, January 13, 2014

Effective daily management starts with leadership. When it’s done well, associates and their overall organizational performance benefit through faster innovation, increased accountability, shared direction and decisions reflecting clearly-defined priorities, according to Katrina Warren, manager of engineering development for Zodiac Arresting Systems. Warren shared her suggestions for daily management in engineering and supply chain in a presentation during the recent AME annual conference in Toronto. Zodiac Arresting Systems manufactures military products including aircraft and vehicle arresting systems and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launch and recovery systems in Aston, PA. Employees at the company’s Logan Township, PA, operation manufacture arrestor beds for civilian airports.

Leading in the lean enterprise demands constantly looking out for non-standard conditions, said Warren. Leaders are responsible for focusing on continuous process improvement and sustaining the system, she added. Using tools such as visual management and key performance indicators (KPIs) supports these initiatives. KPIs in engineering, for example, range from the operation’s technology roadmap to R&D as a percentage of sales, the number of new patents and the number of new product introductions. Monthly “dashboard” reviews reveal progress in KPIs and suggest needed actions.

Engineering: Consistent Performance, Minus the Fire Drills

There’s no magic required to achieve better daily management in engineering, according to Warren. Use a checklist as you manage on a daily basis; it can free your thoughts for innovative ideas. Through hoshin kanri and visual communications such as a central communications board, the idea is to enable consistent performance improvements, minus “fire drills” and rush projects. In turn, continuous improvement (CI) in R&D processes yields needed corrective actions and progress in engineering change order (ECO) management, new product introduction processes, project management, etc. Warren noted the value of regular site management visits/updates at visual management boards.

“Daily management starts with you,” Warren said. “It is an organized, deliberate method to maintain your workload within a reasonable time frame.” It does not entail discussing every issue, every day. As leader standard work takes hold, you can extend standard work throughout your department.

Set aside time to think about non-routine conditions. Standard work is a living document. Add and subtract as changes occur, said Warren.

Supply Chain: Collaborative Initiatives

Standard work in supply chain management helps to foster innovation through shared understanding about best practices and regular department benchmarking, Warren said. CI implementation includes collaborative initiatives with suppliers such as lean workshops and a supplier rating system. Effective documentation of on-time delivery, quality and other issues, accompanied by problem-solving activities such as team huddles at area boards boost understanding about needed changes. Employ product impact and defective material reports as the foundation for discussion and problem resolution. “The beauty is in its simplicity. Discussions don’t have to be long,” Warren said.

“Standard work — do it!“ and, “Start — fix later” are some of the lessons learned along the way to better daily management, said Warren. She also suggested: Give some thought to “what I won’t do” and create conversation that will encourage discussion of issues. By the way, smiles are allowed — don’t be too serious, counseled Warren. More suggestions: Focus on facts rather than emotions, targeting solutions instead of “what you did wrong.” And target those “Groundhog Day” issues — problems that keep surfacing; develop alternate strategies to banish them.

Lea Tonkin, president of Lea Tonkin Communications in Woodstock, IL, is the former editor in chief of Target and Target Online.