We have already spoken about if manufacturing consultants are worth the money (summary: yes) and how to choose the right manufacturing consultant. Now let’s talk about what a manufacturing consultant does on site.
This commercial from UPS is a bit old but it captures the difference between strategy consulting firms like McKinsey and manufacturing consulting firms. The strategy consultant will tell you what you should do and the manufacturing consulting helps you do it. A manufacturing consultant is not a “big picture” consultant; their work is practical and tangible.
This is not to disparage strategy consultants (well, maybe a little). I used to be one and can tell you that they do important work that assist clients to understand their market and their corporate strategy. Ask a manufacturing consultant if they should change their corporate structure or go into a new market, he or she could give you their opinion but that’s all it would be.
A Practical Example of What a Manufacturing Consultant Does
Manufacturing consultants help companies make their products better by focusing on the core elements of manufacturing: costs, quality, delivery, safety, and morale. Every task they engage in should engage one or more of those elements. Let’s take a practical example. A client came to CMC with a problem. It manufactures fuel tanks and many of its tanks had leaks. The leaks were a quality problem, but they also were a cost and delivery problem. Poor quality is expensive. Extra time and manpower had to be devoted to rework. The rework caused delivery delays which were even more expensive because the parts needed to be shipped by air freight to meet buyer’s needs.
Manufacturing consultants will conduct an assessment to see what the root cause of the issue is.
In this case, the CMC team found that the problem was with the automatic welder. The welder was not regularly maintained so there was often a bit of slag (waste material from the weld) that was on the end of the welder. This prevented the welder from completing the seal thus some of the tanks leaked. The immediate action was to clean the welding tip. That is a fix; not a solution. For a solution, the CMC team worked with the client to develop a maintenance program for the equipment that would prevent this problem from happening again. The client was able to improve its quality, reduce costs, and deliver its products on time.
Manufacturing consultants should find a long-term solution to the problems clients face.
A band aid approach is not delivering good value to clients. Manufacturing consultants need time to not only find a solution and implement it but assist in making the change a new standard. Change is difficult and manufacturing consultants provide support as companies move to a new normal. Otherwise, it is very easy to fall back to the old ways since those are what people know and require less effort. This is true even if, intellectually, organisations know that they should use the improved methods.
Manufacturing consultants should be on the production floor, not the office.
Given the nature of the challenges that manufacturing consultants solve, they should not be in an office. Their place is on the factory floor where production happens. A manufacturing consultant who spends most of the time in the factory is not successful and cannot accomplish the practical tasks they need to be successful. If we refer back to the UPS ad from earlier, they need to be on site to “do” anything.
Finally, a manufacturing consultant needs to know manufacturing and have practical experience in it. Years on the manufacturing floor learning the right techniques and methodologies. It is not necessary, with few exceptions, that a manufacturing consultant be an expert in a particular industry. A process is a process regardless if the product is a plastic toy or an automobile.
The Bottom Line
Manufacturing consultants should deliver tangible measurable results that have a noticed impact on cost, quality, delivery, safety, and morale on the factory floor. If they are not doing that, then they are not worth a manufacturing consultant.