In the main, continuous improvement programmes have encouraged companies to focus on core competencies and outsource the rest. The last couple of decades has seen the majority of businesses establish a clear picture as to what is best outsourced and what areas are best managed in house. For large multinational businesses in particular this has led to a significant increase in the number of “specialist suppliers” that companies engage.
They cover a wide range of areas deemed to be “non-core” activities. Examples include HR, finance, catering, transport, IT and security as well as highly-technical areas such as calibration programme management and solutions, commissioning services, operations and maintenance, all of which are LotusWorks’ focus of expertise.
The consensus is that, in the majority of cases, companies’ outsourcing strategies have been successful. Outside suppliers like LotusWorks and others have been able to use their technical services expertise and scale to provide companies with a higher quality – or equivalent – service at a lower cost. This, in turn, frees up companies’ financial and employee resources for core business activities.
Some continuous improvement activities such as Six Sigma, Kaizen and Lean have been accused of stifling innovation. Detractors point to the fact that Japanese manufacturers have been displaced by more innovative and nimble competitors from South Korea, China and elsewhere. Iconic Six Sigma companies such as GE, Motorola and 3M have struggled to be the innovation leaders they once were.
Our experience is that one of the fundamental problems of continuous improvement programmes is that it is often regarded as a company employee-only activity and suppliers are usually excluded. This may be accidental as there is an assumption that “there is nothing in it for them” or by design “we are fearful of sharing any failings too broadly or publicly”. The result of this lack of collaboration with suppliers is usually a ‘one size fits all’ continuous improvement programme that doesn’t fit all parts of the organisation.
True innovation comes from combining deep expertise in a specific area with new operations and maintenance experiences and fresh perspectives. This is exactly the combination of talents that high-quality suppliers bring.
Too many continuous improvement projects focus on gaining efficiencies but fail to challenge the basic assumptions of what’s being done and how it is utilised or applied. LotusWorks has a full understanding of the challenges faced by engineering departments, acquired from their successful integration within high technology facilities for two decades.
If companies required their suppliers to become closely involved in continuous improvement within suppliers specific areas of expertise, companies would be far better placed to access and adopt best practice. LotusWorks adapt innovative, value adding ideas and activities from across their pool of technical experts, achieving efficiencies that are substantive and sustainable within client facilities.
While companies are very familiar with the benefits of implementing continuous improvement programmes and successfully implementing the process, it’s time the programme is opened to all suppliers within large facilities as they are often best placed to identify improvements and implement solutions.