Baseball season within the Food Manufacturing family leads to several interesting and often heated conversations — many of which offer a unique parallel to the competitive environment you see on the plant floor.
Our family resides in two different homes. Out on the east coast we have Karen Langhauser. She’s stubborn but well intended with a good sense of humor, but also happens to be a die-hard fan of that evil empire known as the New York Yankees. Being in a different league than the beloved Milwaukee Brewers favored by us here on the Wisconsin homestead of Advantage Business Media, there’s not so much a rivalry, but a definite clash in philosophies.
Karen has to take plenty of flack about a team who’s salary expenditures rival most country’s GNP ratings, while we Brewer fans represent a small-market franchise that has to invest smartly and hope for a couple of positive surprises in order to reach the promised land of the post season. However, this year’s playoffs offered greater perspective that went beyond demonstrating the differences between the haves and the have-nots.
While it’s great to invest in new resources, whether it’s a couple hundred million for that prized left-handed starter, or simply more advanced automation equipment, in either instance that initial investment only gets said element into the production flow. The real key is implementing these resources in the proper way and ensuring they execute.
In the past the Yankees have brought in expensive veteran free agents to plug in the gaps. The result was tremendous disappointment from a roster full of All-Star talent and Hall of Fame credentials that simply never came together and executed in order to produce the optimal result. They got beat by teams that worked better together and within a system.
It was like using refurbished equipment that hadn’t been maintained very well and then trying to incorporate these hard-wired components into a fully automated, wireless facility. The flow bogged down and production quality suffered.
That’s what was different about this year’s team. The new components not only operated in the promised manner, but they were implemented in a way that meshed well with the current scheme. What is first baseman Mark Teixeira doing at second base to tag a runner out? Simple — that is where he was supposed to be under those circumstances. It was the perfect meshing of investment with execution.
The play of these big name Yankee players also reinforced a core element of any successful operational scheme. Everyone touts the mantra of quality as their primary focus. In my opinion that makes it easy to become lax on some of these related procedures because we want to believe that our quality controls are in line with priorities and expectations. This was another difference that I saw in this Yankee team which parallels the keys of manufacturing success.
They never rested on their abilities. They never took for granted that just because of their talent and regular season success that everything would simply pan out. Derek Jeter positioned himself perfectly in a number of instances where less attention to detail could have changed the outcome. Cut-offs were hit. Throws were backed up. Sacrifice bunts were laid down. Simple steps were continually emphasized, implemented and executed better than the teams they played.
The plant floor offers plenty of production challenges, especially given the economic climate and increasing level of global competitiveness. Decisions over new investments and procedures are being even more highly scrutinized, as well they should. The challenge will be to ensure that not only the right purchases are made, but that they are the right fit in every way and implemented without losing focus on a quality end result.
By the way — sorry Karen, but I’m pulling for the Phillies.