Accelerating Operational Excellence: Q&A With LNS’s Mark Davidson
When you consider some of the challenges that manufacturers face across industries  today — they’re unprecedented. The pressures of global supply and demand dynamics, supply chain complexities, disparate production locations and systems, regulations, and other factors have forced manufacturers to reevaluate operations and optimize them everywhere possible in order to remain competitive and profitable.
While these macro factors manifest themselves as a variety of specific operational challenges depending on company size, industry, and location, the initial steps to improvement involve instilling a mindset of Continuous Improvement across the organization , and working to optimize key resources — people, processes, and technology — to achieve a model of Operational Excellence .
Knowing the importance of getting on a track toward Operational Excellence is a good first step, but how is it actually accomplished?
On January 29 at 11:00a.m. (EST), LNS Research’s principal analyst Mark Davidson will host the webcast, “Accelerating Operational Excellence for Global and Regional Manufacturers ,” which aims to dive deep into the key programs, institutional training, cultural shifts, and supporting technologies that are delivering the most business value to manufacturers today and helping them achieve their goals.
Last week, Manufacturing Business Technology’s Editorial Director, Jeff Reinke, sat down with Mark  to get a better idea of how Operational Excellence can be best defined, what types of topics and recommendations he’ll be covering in this webcast, and how attendees can best use this knowledge to support their current operational improvement initiatives. Below is an excerpt from the interview:
Jeff Reinke: How do you see companies defining Operational Excellence? Is there a standard way of thinking about this concept?
Mark Davidson: Well, every company’s Operational Excellence journey is slightly different based on their specific strategies, industry, goals, and objectives. However, there is a standard way that people have been thinking about Operational Excellence as a Continuous Improvement journey.
The main reason we use the term “journey” is because it never truly ends, and clarity of strategy and direction is a key common factor because annual goals and objectives need to be dynamic in order to match evolving marketplace demands.
JR: Can you share some information on how the research for this study was conducted and who participated?
MD: Research was conducted using the LNS Research social model (survey respondents are granted access to other related research upon survey completion, creating a data set that grows continuously) using a common demographics survey/online, followed by a more detailed Manufacturing Operations Management  online survey.
The demographics of the research by industry are fairly spread out, with 37.1 percent of respondents coming from discrete manufacturing industries, 17 percent coming from process manufacturing industries, 15.2 percent from food and beverage/consumer packaged goods, 11.4% from life sciences, and 19.3 percent from the other industries. The bulk of respondents are based in North America (50 percent) and Europe (30.1 percent), but we did get representation from the Asia/Pacific region as well (11.9 percent).
JR: What are some of the new technology trends you’re seeing that will influence how companies manage their Operational Excellence programs?
MD: The research shows that manufacturers are increasingly adopting MOM software applications  to help effectively manage operations. Specifically, I’m seeingQuality Management Software , Planning, Scheduling & Dispatching Software, Manufacturing Execution Systems, and Document Management Software  as some of the more highly adopted MOM applications that companies are leveraging today.
The important future technology trends that are emerging include Big Data Analytics, which will allow companies to uncover hidden patterns and previously unknown data correlations and help to increase the speed of operations across the board. Also, mobile capabilities, which will allow companies far greater operational flexibility by delivering information to any enabled mobile device. And the third is cloud capabilities , which will ease the IT burden of operations, offering automatic updates, unlimited capacity upgrades, and universal remote access capabilities to companies.
Now, many companies are already leveraging some of these key trends in various ways, but research shows that they are poised to become standard practices in the near future.
JR: What are some of the recommendations you would make to companies who are undertaking this journey?
MD: There are several key steps that companies can take to ensure that they are on an effective Operational Excellence journey . At a high level, the most important is probably to define the appropriate scope of the journey itself, which may be at the plant, line of business, or full enterprise level. After the proper scope is determined, instilling a Continuous Improvement culture, empowering people with the right information, and ensuring alignment of strategy across goals, actions, and metrics are all important factors in getting on a successful journey.
To register for this free webcast and find out how to accelerate your Operational Excellence journey, click below.