The challenges of managing and growing a successful apparel and textile manufacturing operation are becoming increasingly complex, especially for those that are producing multiple product lines from operations in multiple locations, states or countries.
This level of business complexity represents a huge challenge when it comes to successfully managing and standardizing manufacturing business processes.
While the goal of process standardization and simplicity makes good sense on paper, the business reality of localization and customization demands, coupled with various government regulations and industry requirements makes things more complex and often results in the need for process variations. If not managed properly, process variations will mean increased costs, process inconsistencies and increasing complexity every time a new variation is introduced.
This can be particularly frustrating when only slight variations to standard processes are called for in order to meet the requirements of a specific location, product or customer.
Most organizations have been unsuccessful finding a way to successfully manage process variations.
Steve Stanton, an analyst with FCB Partners and a pioneer of business model innovation, says, “Ninety percent of the organizations I know have failed at standardization.”
Personally, I agree that managing process variations is often unnecessarily complex, costly and inconsistent for many manufacturing organizations. But that can be solved. There are seven essential capabilities required to achieve the benefits of process standardization, with the ability to control process variations where they are really needed.
1. Standardize core processes
Manufacturers that are multi-nationals and have multiple locations, or offer multiple core products must be able to agree on the core or standard processes, owned by global process owners, which form a platform to consider local variations against.
2. Enable approved process variations
Local process variants (e.g. for regional variations like country, state and office location, product group, or customer type) should then only be established off of this standard process base, with any changes applied by variant experts highlighted and visible against core processes. Global process owners should be notified of any change to a process variation, enabling them to retain oversight and control.
3. Compare and report
Manufacturers must have the ability to compare and report on all the process variations that exist, for each standard process. Doing so will allow the organization to see what activities have been added, removed or changed, compared to the standard process.
4. Easy access
When navigating to processes, teams must be given easy access to the process variation applicable to them. Ideally, they should be able to select the process variant they seek from a list, or even better, be routed automatically to ‘their’ variant, if they have a default location, product team or business unit. This will increase speed, process relevancy and adherence.
5. Change management
Any changes applied to the standard process by the global process owners should be notified to the applicable local variant owner for their approval to merge into each variant process, or for amendment. This will enable variation owners to apply their expertise to ensure the particular needs of the process variation are met.
6. Global reporting
There should be global reporting capability so that process champions can see the list of processes that exist for each variant type.
7. Cost and time tracking
Process variant costing and timeframe tracking is required to calculate the difference in cost and time between variations and the standard process. This is important. It will allow manufacturing organizations to make informed decisions about whether to keep or eliminate specific process variations. It will also help to identify cost savings opportunities and the impact of process changes.
These capabilities will empower manufacturing organizations to understand the extent of the process variations they are managing, to control and report on them and to challenge them when necessary, improving transparency, compliance, and control. They will empower teams to be more agile and flexible, and to customize (or eliminate) activities as they see fit because the process variations will exist in an environment they have clarity and control over.
Most importantly, simplifying the management of process variations allows manufacturing organizations to achieve the benefits of process standardization but still customize their processes where necessary to meet business and market demands.
Ivan Seselj is CEO of Promapp Solutions, an industry leading provider of cloud-based process management (BPM) software for creating and managing business processes online. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @Ivanseselj. You can visit Promapp at www.promapp.com.