SEEING is IMPROVING. OPERATIONAL TRANSPARENCY LEADS TO A FOCUS ON PROBLEM-SOLVING
THE MCE STORY
Mackay Conveyor Equipment (MCE) is an industry leading conveyor equipment specialist located in Queensland, Australia. Director and Operations Manager, Jason Kelly has built a successful and ever-growing business over the last 10 years, and as we know all too well, business growth is rarely without its fair share of pain.
“We are doing ‘ok’, but some days can be pretty frustrating” was one of the ways Jason described why he was looking for help. “We always deliver for the client in the end, but sometimes the road to get to that point is way harder than it needs to be”.
In 2018, Jason contacted Demarken Group to talk about this problem. He painted the picture about how the opportunities being presented to the business were fantastic, but MCE was only partially taking advantage of this mainly because of a lack of what he described as ‘team focus’. “We’ve got some of the best in the business working for us, but some days you’ve got to wonder if we’re all working for the same company” he laughed.
The boss wasn’t the only person who wanted this situation to change. Team Leaders and shop floor team members also knew there was potential to do things much better. They were still getting the thrill from the jobs that went really well but were just as frustrated as management about the other jobs which seemed to just end up dragging everyone down.
Linden Oosen, Production Team Leader is the meat in the sandwich between Sales/Engineering and the guys on the tools. He talked about the problem from his perspective, “Nothing leaves this place without being right, I make sure of that. It’s just that we get ourselves into a position where the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing”. “Half of the problems we have are just because people are not talking to each other and not thinking ahead”.
HIGHLY ‘ORGANISED’ TEAMS
Demarken Group are global experts in solving these problems and getting teams working better together. In the case of MCE, it was very evident that there was enormous potential for improving daily teamwork and making things easier for people at all levels. From our perspective, the MCE situation firstly needed a socio-technical mechanism which would force people to be talking about the right things at the right place at the right time. And, we have just the solution for that in Flight Deck®.
MCE are one of Demarkens’ prize students when it comes to adopting and adapting the Flight Deck® component of the Demarken Business Gearbox® into their operations. ‘Transparency for all’ is a key slogan added to the Flight Deck® artwork and one of the main drivers behind the improved team performance. Jason and the team have taken the concept incredibly seriously and this discipline together with the way the process is designed has produced some remarkable results in terms of daily team synchronisation.
“This is the first time I’ve ever really felt that we all know ‘where we are at’ in all my time in my business” said Jason during a routine Demarken visit. “Everything is transparent, and I feel like everyone is looking at what I’m looking at, and can see what I can see”.
The job of implementing Flight Deck® into an organisation is not as simple as throwing some whiteboards up on a wall. A semi-scientific approach is needed to arrange the process in a customised way that suits the specific work being done and what needs to be able to be seen at any given moment. Demarken worked in consultation with key team members to gain an intimate understanding of ideal ‘operational flow’ and to establish core Flight Deck® functionality. Production and Engineering Leader, Mitch Walker reflects on the development process; “It took a bit more thinking than I first thought it would, but we ended up with a format that truly represents how the work should be happening”. “You really need to work carefully through different considerations about how it will work otherwise it will end-up driving the wrong behaviours”.
THE ROAD TO FORMALISED PROBLEM-SOLVING
Flight Deck® has been a major part of the step-change improvement needed at MCE, but the team admit that there are still problems to deal with every day. Like most businesses, niggling internal challenges continue to create waste and impact on the bottom-line, something which simply cannot go on forever.
Jason has always been interested in operational and business data but has struggled to find a way of using it to drive proactive solutions and improved business performance, until now. He explains how Flight Deck® has provided the avenue for the team to get focused on the most important problems to solve. The visibility of business performance as well as being able to see where the energy needs to be put into solving problems has made a dramatic difference to how the team works together, every day.
“We are all holding ourselves accountable to our follow-ups and solving problems, every day. It’s driving the collaboration needed to work through problems together as a team and to know exactly why we are focusing on those particular issues. This is different to the more random approach we had before”.
SOLVING THE BIGGER ISSUES
As the process continues to mature, the team have brought in additional Business Gearbox® elements to drive even further improvement. The integration of Demarken’s customised Balanced Scorecard has enabled the team to now focus on higher-level problem solving based on overall operational performance instead of only the day-to-day problems. Individual problem-solving responsibilities have been assigned to team members and the weekly scorecard within the Flight Deck® is highlighting both the successes and the improvement opportunities.
“In the last few months since dovetailing our formalised problem-solving into Flight Deck® we have seen more action completion than we have ever seen before and you can see the results in the way the team is working together”.
Plan, Do, CHECK, Adjust
All the cogs within the Demarken Business Gearbox® are underpinned by a critical principle; PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Adjust). The Deming Cycle is the most important thing to get right and it ensures all the Gearbox ‘cogs’ are turning in the right direction. Without the CHECK part of this process, it is ‘Plan, Do’ at best. And ‘Do, Re-do’ at worst. Demarken Group provide ongoing support to organisations as they implement the various elements of the Gearbox and Monthly Gearbox Audits have now been implemented at MCE to assist the team to measure whether the ‘system is working as designed’. Not only does the Audit provide an external check on the sustainability of what’s been implemented, but it also acts as an opportunity to coach and promote further problem-solving. Monthly feedback from this process is fed back into the established problem-solving system within Flight Deck® ready for solutions to be found and ongoing operational improvement to be realised.
The MCE story is another example of how improved team performance can be achieved using simple but highly effective solutions. MCE have hosted dozens of visitors to their facility who are there to look at Flight Deck® and how it is transforming their operation.
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