A Quick Guide to Aligning Business and Manufacturing Goals

manufacturing culture strategiesLargely due to the misalignment of goals and objectives, a considerable number of organizations struggle to realize the full business value that manufacturing can generate. From discussions with executives in a wide variety of manufacturing industries, this challenge seems to in one way or another impact the effectiveness of a majority of their organizations. Goal alignment is an issue that even market leaders struggle with and sometimes fail to successfully address.

Although the manufacturing staff wants to do the right thing to support the organization’s goals, and are sometimes incentivized to do so, they typically have to work within a specified envelope of control and adjustments that they can directly impact. They make decisions based on what they’re familiar with and what they’re allowed to do. Though, depending on how well the organization has aligned its goals, these confines may not be optimal to the overall profitability of their company.

This post will go beyond the basics of creating 'SMART' goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) described in 'Setting Smart Management Goals for Dummies.' We'll start by relating specific goal alignment and measurement best practices that have been proven to bridge across business and manufacturing processes and people. This will provide a backdrop for a follow-on post that will touch on the supporting roles of both Enterprise and Manufacturing Operations Management software applications.

Best Practices for Achieving Manufacturing Business Goal Alignment

Transcending across industries and positioning within the supply chain, there are several steps all organizations that utilize manufacturing can take to properly and optimally align goals.

1. Understand and Articulate Strategy

Companies must have a clearly articulated and universally understood manufacturing strategy that is in support of a corporate business strategy. Examples of manufacturing strategy may include being a low-cost provider, a high-value niche offering provider, the highest quality or purity provider, the most responsive or fastest delivery supplier, or some mix of these or other strategies. Disparate goals tend to surface when the strategic nature and intent of a manufacturing organization is not universally understood across a business.

It could be, for instance, that the manufacturing capabilities simply have to be “good enough,” and not necessarily a source of strategic advantage. In this scenario, advantage may come from some other business activity such as marketing and distribution, which is often the case in consumer products. Or, advantage may come from the speed of introducing new innovations in industries like pharmaceuticals. In all cases, a company has to clearly define and articulate to the entire organization how its manufacturing fits within the broader business strategies and goals.

2. Translate Strategy into Specific Goals

After establishing the role manufacturing will play within your organization, it’s important to translate that strategy into specific goals for the different business groups and associated supply chains, as well as the individual plants, and then each plant unit and production line within each plant. Lack of a organized approach to the translation across all of these levels tends to be the main source of disconnects and conflicting goals. An example of misalignment would be a plant that consistently drives towards a high overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), even when demand for the product doesn't exist. In this case, the plant hits its OEE targets but overproduces.

3. Map Goals and Specific Measures for Success

From top to bottom, companies should map the goals of each translation with full visibility and transparency across the organization. This process is most effective when carried out by a cross-functional team comprised of not only business and manufacturing executives, but also staff down at the plant and shop floor levels. After establishing the more granular aspects of these goals and measures, they should be tested and improved based on how well they align to the strategy using an iterative process. The goal and measurement maps should be reviewed and updated annually.

4. Determine Key Performance Indicators

In order to have effective alignment and the ability to make measurable progress toward goals, KPIs need to be standardized across the company relative to exactly how these will be measured, calculated, and compared. In many cases, this process uncovers weaknesses that exist in support systems for these activities. When possible and appropriate, leverage technologies that automatically generate KPIs - including a combination of Enterprise and MOM software. The less labor-intensive and timely the KPIs, the more likely they are to be accurate and utilized.

5. Establish Communication Procedures for KPIs

Actionable information on current performance relative to goals needs to be provided to the right individuals in a timely manner. It is important to understand that requirements around time domains and information vary by the roles of individuals across the manufacturing enterprise. For instance, people working in plants typically need the fastest measurement responses, while executives may operate on daily, weekly, and monthly information time domains.

6. Set Processes for How to Act on KPI Information

Equally critical to establishing a communication procedure, the different manufacturing roles from top to bottom need to be properly trained on what to do with KPI information. For example, plant operators need to not only understand the alignment of business goals, measures, and trade-offs, but they must also know their envelope of empowerment when it comes to making adjustments versus when they need to escalate issues. In some instances, automation can help with this, but the human element is vital for day-to-day handling of unusual cases and exceptions.

7. Match Performance Incentives to Aligned Goals

It is imperative that performance measures are accounted for in the goal alignment process. In this regard, both individual and team rewards need to be linked to desired behaviors and the actual performance attained. It's no surprise that people respond to monetary as well as in-kind rewards. Incentivizing progress toward manufacturing KPIs can help to reinforce the effectiveness of the overall business and manufacturing strategy.

The Role of Technology in Goal Alignment

In the context of the LNS Research Model of Operational Excellence, goal alignment is primarily a people and process issue, however, the implementation of measurements and visibility can be well supported by technology. The following post will discuss how MOM software, in combination with Enterprise applications such as ERP and Enterprise Quality Management Software, can facilitate achievement of aligned business and manufacturing goals.

Tell Us About Your Experiences with Goal Alignment

As much our research is driven by both benchmark analysis and discussions with industry leaders, we're always interested in hearing about the experiences of manufacturers from the shop floor to the top floor. If you have past or present experience with aligning goals - challenges or success stories - please share them in the comments section below.

Manufacturing operations management

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All entries in this Industrial Transformation blog represent the opinions of the authors based on their industry experience and their view of the information collected using the methods described in our Research Integrity. All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

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