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Why is a Change Management Consultant Important for your Factory?

May 31, 2021

 by David Collins III

factory workers

The success of lean, one-piece flow, and mistake-proofing are dependent on long-term commitments. While many factories introduce process improvements, they fail to keep at it 90% of the time, often reverting to old processes within six months.

Reverting to previous ways of working often happens not due to lack of commitment, but often because any significant process change needs an equally significant change in mindset.

A good analogy is a New Year’s Resolution. You go into the New Year with clear goals and determination. However, when you don’t see immediate results, you quickly feel less motivated to stick to your resolutions.

Manufacturing consultants use the change management process to ensure your process improvements become a permanent part of your operations even after the consultants leave.

The Change Management Process

Following a fair process ensures that the managers, supervisors, team leaders, and operators buy into changes. There are two ways of achieving this:

1. Get the Teams Input

Manufacturing consultants rarely know your business better than you or your operators. They know process improvement, not necessarily individual companies. Operators and supervisors often have the most significant knowledge of what is hurting production and, if given the opportunity, can find innovative ways to fix the problem. 

We have worked in concert with companies to develop teams of operators that take the lessons they have learned and continuously find innovative, new ways to improve their operations.

2. Make Sure They Understand the Changes

Change is not effective when given as directives from the top. Manufacturing consultants are skilled at teaching and guiding employees to see what needs to be changed and why from the ground up. 

People work harder and make the change if they are an active participant rather than a passive observer. A clear understanding of why and how a process is changing will lead to organizational buy-in.

Key Factors for Implementing Change

1. People Development

Change can be considered a challenge for many employees. Developing your employees will enable them to be prepared for future challenges. Not only will they be more open to what other companies do, but they grasp new concepts faster. If your employees have been following the same processes for many years, it could be necessary to implement some developmental measures.

2. Management Systems

In some factories, top management has put a system in place to ensure the leadership team works to the same objectives, which trickles down the organization. When a direction is approved, all parties tend to row in the same direction. There are usually a few Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each team. In many other companies, the manager has to push the critical initiatives because nobody else will personally.

As you can see from the graph below, change is more likely to stick if there is strong people development and robust management systems. If one is weak, the other leads to inferior outcomes. Factory operations, like most organizations, need a formidable mix of freedom and direction to be successful.

A chart that shows the people development and management stress

Why You Need a Change Management Consultant for Your Factory

Failure to successfully follow through with change creates several drawbacks that make the situation worse. There is likely a loss of productivity from a poorly implemented change plan both on the front end, the immediate changes, and the back end when the changes start to break down. Worst yet, the experience is likely to make the manufacturing team more resistant to change in the future, making necessary improvements more challenging to implement.

Manufacturing consultants can help smooth the transition process, and help changes stick. Consultants are experts at change management and can gradually lead the company with more operator buy-in. Understanding how companies and individuals internalize changes can significantly differentiate between a passing attempt at change and real change.

Do you have any interesting experiences of implementing change at your factory? We would love to hear from you in the comments section.

Having trouble making changes stick? Want to learn these concepts in a more practical way?

Take a look at our case study to see how we've helped one of our clients to make an impactful and long-term improvement.

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Topics: Manufacturing Consulting, Manufacturing In China, Process Improvement

David Collins III

David Collins III

David was a Senior Strategy Consultant for Deloitte, served in Iraq as a Special Operations Civil Affairs soldier, and as a Governance Advisor to the Afghan Government with the Department of State. At CMC, David advises clients on strategy and investments.

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