Organization and focus are essential elements in achieving operational excellence. There is just so much to do and it is easy to fall into the “work on everything, accomplish nothing” trap. In automotive, objectives commonly fall into five categories: Safety, Quality, Delivery, Cost, Morale, and Environment. SQDCME is much more than a format for annual performance reviews: the six dimensions focus improvement actions and prioritize competing objectives.
Safety is the first priority. The first questions to ask are around employee and customer safety. What processes are in place to ensure employees are working safely and that products are safe for their intended use? Who is responsible for managing these processes? What metrics measure employee and customer safety? Corrective actions to ensure employee and customer safety will be the first line items on the action plan matrix.
Customer satisfaction must be ensured. Unhappy customers do not stay customers so the quality system is the second area of interest. What processes are in place to ensure finished products meet customer requirements before they are shipped? What processes ensure internal quality between manufacturing processes? Who is responsible for managing these processes? What are the key internal and external quality metrics? Gaps in the quality system will drive the second set of line items on the action plan matrix.
Production schedules must be met. Customers waiting for products are almost as unhappy as those with defects. What processes are in place to align production schedules with customer demand and plant capacity? How are engineering changes coordinated? What processes are in place to successfully launch new products? How are supplier and production bottlenecks managed? What processes are in place to maintain production equipment? Who is responsible for managing these processes? What metrics are used to measure delivery performance? These questions will lead to a third set of action plan line items related to on time delivery.
Waste (and cost) must continuously be attacked. Cost and quality together drive value…and loyal, repeat customers. Does everything have a place? Are materials delivered directly to the point of use? Does the plant layout facilitate single piece flow? Is there a problem-solving methodology that facilitates continuous improvement? Who is responsible for identifying and reducing waste? What metrics are used to track progress? As above, these questions will generate actions to reduce waste and cost.
Engaged employees are critical to success. It is hard to imagine a successful plant full of unhappy, disinterested employees. What processes are in place to ensure effective two-way communication with employees? Is the plant clean and bright? Are restrooms spotless? Are break rooms and cafeterias pleasant places to hang out? Are offices and cubicles functional and professional? What processes ensure employees are properly trained? Who is responsible for employee involvement? The answers (or missing answers) will lead to action plans to increase employee involvement and satisfaction.
The plant must be a responsible member of the community. It is equally hard to imagine a successful plant that pollutes and is an eyesore. What are the processes to monitor air and water standards? Is refuse minimized and disposed of responsibly? Are the plant grounds appropriately maintained? How do the plant and its employees contribute to the community? From these questions will follow action plan line items related the plant’s place in the community.
Is SQDCME all that there is to operational excellence? Certainly not. However, in short order the SQDCME approach will form a half dozen or so teams focused on specific actions towards operational excellence.