A Well-Thought Out Plan

“Without a plan, there’s no attack. Without attack, no victory.” – Curtis Armstrong

Successful operations unlock value through a continuous cycle of plan – do – check – act. That critical cycle starts with a plan. The learning for the organization comes from executing the plan and checking the results. The value is unlocked through actions and adjustments learned from the problems identified with executing the plan. A very real danger, however, is if the learning never happens because there was no plan.

There are two indispensable values to having a well thought out plan: It is a way to incorporate what you have learned and it allows you to continue to learn (and most importantly, identify problems).

Incorporates What You Have Learned

A very talented continuous annealing furnace operator had learned from years of experience that when he processed light gauge coils that required different speeds it was always best to start with the coils with the slowest speed and work up to the coils with the faster speed. The result was less tear offs and less changeover time between coils. The department used this operator’s knowledge as evidence of why they did not give him an exact daily schedule to follow. They prided themselves on allowing him to choose what to run because it was obvious he was the expert. 

It was true that experience had made this operator the expert, but it turned out that experience also taught him what a bad coil looks like. He used that expertise to leave those coils for the next shift. The next shift did not have his experience, did not run coils slowest to fastest, and often struggled with the bad coils.

Tremendous knowledge was lost in the organization from the years of experience the operator had accumulated. Identifying bad coils and the best pattern to run the product were just notes in a notebook stuck in a drawer referred to occasionally by the seasoned veteran. 

Allows You to Continue to Learn

Successful organizations understand the value generated from processing their customer demand in the least amount of time with the least amount of resources.  So the role of the plan is critical. Documents representing the products needed to meet the customer requests are given to the production process with specific work content, in a specific sequence, with specific time to complete, and a description of the final expected outcome

Production’s role is to execute the plan, track if they are ahead or behind the plan, and produce the expected outcome. Anytime they fall behind or do not get the expected outcome, they capture and communicate the problem and the organization learns, adjusts, and solves the problem.

Who gives the (work) orders in your operation? Does your sales team call directly to the shop floor to expedite orders? Do experienced operators decide their own sequence as they go? Are valuable lessons lost every day simply because there is no specific plan?

Learn more in Patrick’s book, “Facilitating Effective Change,” available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He is also the founder of UTV Advisors, a business consulting firm based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

Patrick Putorti

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