Skip to main content

Do you have multiple strategies to meet customer demand?

Do you find that the workloads in your business are becoming more volatile?

Do you find that what your business was used to doing on a regular basis and what it does now aren't the same?

Many businesses are finding themselves with a lot more variety on their order books, especially in terms of how quickly customers want / expect things and the mix of the orders.

So, how can you handle this?

Although the answer is a lot longer than what I can offer in a blog article, let me give you a few of my thoughts and (hopefully) a push in the right direction.

If the title of this article isn't clear, let me offer you the longer version:

What you do as your normal way of working probably won't work when you have a different set of demands, or mix of requirements, on your order book!

Or, to put it another way:

You need more than one gear to run your business.

Does that make sense?

If you have set your business up in a rigid, specific way, to handle your customer orders you shouldn't be completely surprised that if their order style changes you may struggle to cope with meeting their new requirements.

I'm not saying that you can't meet their demands, I'm suggesting that unless their new requirements happen to meet your way of working it might be a lot of effort.

Blood, sweat and tears - you know the sort of thing I am talking about.

So, let me suggest an idea that you might be able to apply to your business.

Do you know how to play rugby?

I'm not an expert in rugby, but there are a three key elements that can might give you some food for thought:

  1. Normal play - the team execute their original planned strategy to win the game.
  2. Scrum - the team re-configure themselves to get the game re-started after a foul.
  3. Line out - the ball has gone out of play and the team re-configure themselves to attempt to gain control of the ball.
The majority of the time the team are playing with their normal strategy (1), but can re-configure themselves to cope with either of the other two demands that are placed on them (2 & 3).

Once they have coped with the alternative demand they go back to their normal strategy.

Does this sound familiar?

It was planned!

The re-arrangements mentioned above (scrum and line out) aren't an accident. They are planned, rehearsed and understood by all in the game.

Could you imagine watching the game, the ball going out of play and everyone standing around saying 'er... what do I do now?'

Although we don't quite do this in our business when the demand changes it is clear that we do this to a degree. Headless chickens, chaotic working, fraught meetings... I think you get the picture.

How can you handle changing demands?

Thinking through the different situations that your business can face can help you to figure out how your teams need to be 'configured' to cope with the change in demand.

By configure I mean that you might want to temporarily adjust who is in what team and what their short term focus is.

The next point is to think about how you identify when the demand is changing. What indicators are there in your business that can tell you demand is changing?

And my final point for this approach is how do you communicate that the temporary re-configuration is required?

Setting up simple rules is one way to do this. For example - 'when this specific situation occurs go to configuration 3'.

What are your ad-hoc configurations?

The chances are that you have some kind of ad-hoc re-configuration taking place at the moment. It might be in the form of overtime or helping out another team.

The point of this article is to propose that being a little more formal about this process can help you to properly resource the changes and allow your business to cope dynamically with the change in demands, rather than hoping that re-active tweaks will do the job.

I have seen many businesses utilise this approach to great effect.

If you are a fan of Lean pull production systems you will see the parallel with this approach. The above ideas work well if setting up a Kan-ban system won't translate easily into your business and you need another way to apply the same principle of:

The right person doing the right job at the right time

Have fun thinking this through for your business,

Giles



About the author
Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes.

Giles is also the author of Business Process Re-Engineering and creator of the 'Making It Happen' continuous improvement toolkit.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Kamishibai Boards

Some tools are incredibly simple to use, and also deliver some amazing results. Kamishibai boards are a great example and are superb when you want some visual control over routine tasks. By the way Kamishibai is pronounced "come-e-she-bye" in case you were wondering!
As simple as you could want it, a Kamishibai board is a T-card system that has red cards glued to green
cards (so that each T-card has a red side and a green side). The red cards are for the incomplete tasks, where as the green cards symbolise that the work has been done. See the photo below of a board in use.
On the red side of the card you write the name of the task that needs to be completed, and if appropriate you can include details of how the task is to be completed. This is not expected to replace standard operating procedures, but can be a good opportunity for an aide memoire.
The boards can be organised for daily, weekly and even monthly cycles. They are great as part of a 5S implementation (the Susta…

Do You Put Enough Effort Into Changing How Your Business Works?

If you're reading this blog post it is a fair guess that you are looking to improve how your business works. So, what do you think about the question I have posed as the title of this article?
The reality is that if you could make a change happen with the same amount of effort that you current expend in your business changes would be happening left, right and centre. If you want to make a change stick in your business you need to increase your levels of effort temporarily. Without this increase in effort it is unlikely that the change you want will take place and sustain.
I recall when I worked as a Production Manager and the OTIF (On Time In Full) performance of our business was certainly not where it needed to be. For years the business had struggled to raise its level of performance; no additional effort had been expended. I planned out sixteen small improvement projects to address this and I got started with the changes. It was hard work at times and the work was on top of my…

Seeing the Improvement Wood for the Chaos Trees!

How are you feeling about your business the moment?

Are you feeling frustrated and irritated by the apparent lack of progress being made with your improvements?

If you answer ‘yes’ to this second question, don’t worry, you are not alone!

We all feel this way at times and the reason I am writing this article is that if you feel this way right now then I want to reassure you that there is a simple way to get out of this situation. I have been in this situation many times in both my operational life and as a consultant. It is normal and taking a deep breath and stepping back from the noise of the day-to-day is essential.

Let me take you through the three quick steps of Stopping, Assessing and Acting.


Take stock of where you are right now

In order for us to step back and try and see some of the ‘improvement wood’ as I refer to in the title of this article we need to have a simple question to focus our attention. A question I recommend that you ask is:

“Do our current processes suit the need…