Stabilize Operations – Then Improve


Stabilize Operations – Then Improve

Performance management system sets a foundation for consistency and improvement

Any improvement methodology — lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints — is only as effective as its execution. Unfortunately, many manufacturers fail to support their improvement initiatives with a performance management system to provide guidelines and oversight. These companies typically struggle just to stabilize their operations, much less improve. Instead, their efforts end up:

  • Deep but narrow: An improvement effort occurs in an isolated part of the company, often lacking support or even awareness from senior leadership. This small segment of an end-to-end value stream may perform well, but adjacent upstream and downstream processes are unchanged in speed or efficiency — resulting in little or no impact on the overall value stream. Not surprisingly, isolated efforts are often abandoned when the responsible manager leaves.
  • Wide and shallow: Some organizations start their improvement methods with high-profile campaigns focused on basic changes, such as 5S workplace organization or value-stream mapping. These are necessary steps, but failing to advance beyond them will provide only minor improvements. What good is an organized workplace if the work itself is not reorganized? What good is a map if problems aren’t identified and remedied?
  • Misaligned: Without a corporate-wide strategic plan for improvement, well-meaning managers run with their own ideas for how to improve their function or area, doing what they perceive is necessary to impact their performances — even if those efforts conflict with organizational objectives or the goals of other functions. For example, managers of a manufacturing line may focus on its productivity by ignoring routine maintenance or refusing to run prototypes for research and development. Here, too, functional excellence doesn’t necessarily deliver operation-wide improvement.
  • Lacking engagement: Improvement must be the responsibility of everyone — especially frontline associates directly involved in the work. That’s often not the case: Manufacturing executives report that only 52 percent (average) of their workers are fully engaged in their improvement methodologies; nearly one-third indicate that 25 percent or less are fully engaged.(1)

These outcomes can lead to leadership and employee frustration with any improvement method. Yet without a performance management system for corporate-wide strategy, planning, support, and implementation — along with well-defined routines to monitor and respond to conditions on a daily basis — improvement initiatives are virtually doomed to fail.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Performance Solutions by Milliken, the consulting division of Milliken & Company, can help executives to think differently about how they upgrade their organizations — and to avoid improvement initiative frustration and fatigue.

Milliken & Company, a global diversified manufacturer, has relied on a systematic improvement approach — the Milliken Performance System (MPS) — to transform the organization. MPS is characterized by a foundation of workplace safety and strategic clarity and supported by key principals:

  • Daily team maintenance
  • Continuous skills development
  • Focused improvement
  • Production control
  • Planned maintenance
  • Quality management
  • 5S workplace organization
  • Early equipment management
  • Concurrent new product development DFSS (design for six sigma)

Companies often adapt MPS and its nomenclature to their own unique cultures, methodologies, and environments, but the nature and purpose of the principles remain the same. This approach aligns improvement activities with corporate vision and goals, and helps to develop long-term thinking and discipline. Adherence to the system and its daily routines continuously surfaces new opportunities for improvement throughout the entire organization and by everyone in it.

A performance management system is the backbone of continuous improvement. Let Performance Solutions and its practitioners — who have deep understanding of MPS and have years of experience leading multiple Milliken facilities — help your organization get the most from your improvement methods. Contact us today. 


[1] MPI Manufacturing Study, The MPI Group, March 2018.