The recent Adhesive and Sealant Council, Inc., 2001 Spring Convention and Exposition focused on manufacturing and product development, and rightly so.

The recent Adhesive and Sealant Council, Inc., 2001 Spring Convention and Exposition (see Wrap-Up, pg. 21) focused on manufacturing and product development, and rightly so. All the more reason that the following analysis of manufacturing excellence is timely.

According to George Elliott, director of cost management for Kepner-Tregoe Inc., Princeton, N.J., and CEO of Elliott-Luepker & Associates, a Kepner-Tregoe strategic partner based in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., manufacturing excellence is an elusive goal, and barriers can be found in the most well-run and well-intentioned companies. There are many challenges to instilling a culture of manufacturing excellence. Here are Elliott’s 11 most significant barriers to excellence:

1. A lack of management consensus. The drivers for excellence tend to come across as indictments of current performance rather than a legitimate challenge stemming from the competitive demands in the marketplace.

2. Few managers know how to provide the “passion” required for excellence in leadership and change while, at the same time, continuing to celebrate past and current performance.

3. Many managers underestimate both the commitment and effort required to achieve excellence.

4. There is often a lack of understanding of the power of a high-involvement performance culture.

5. Most organizations are output-focused and are uncomfortable rewarding input — for example, ideas, judgments and skills — as a primary performance measurement.

6. Many managers look upon technical training as a luxury, displaying a lack of confidence in technical knowledge as a key to performance. In many cases, the organization’s technical managers believe that line leaders and operators are incapable of understanding the “why” behind their actions.

7. A general lack of knowledge and experience in how to achieve true process control and equipment reliability exists in many organizations. Process control is looked upon as a generic measure of quality rather than the technical driver of variation and cost reduction.

8. The daily repetitive discipline required for manufacturing excellence is often viewed as limiting one’s creativity and “right” to manage, rather than as a mandatory basic of good manufacturing.

9. Too many managers rely on what they have done in the past, an attitude that results in a general resistance to change. Change is perceived as a failure in current performance rather than an opportunity to improve future performance.

10. Most managers underestimate the importance of their “role model” behavior — and the consequences of poor behavior.

11. The central barrier to manufacturing excellence comes from a lack of leadership experience in actually implementing manufacturing discipline and performance excellence. Few have actually run machines or experienced the importance of equipment reliability and process control.

Kepner-Tregoe, Inc. is an international management-consulting firm specializing in strategic and operational decision-making. For more information, or to obtain a copy of Elliott’s presentation on manufacturing excellence at the January 2000 Kepner-Tregoe Executive Session, please call Ginny Simon at 610-889-2036 or Elliott at 609-252-2691.