Productivity is difficult to improve in a complex supply chain. One thing impacts another in the intertwined network. Trying to make any single big thing happen proves a challenge.
Generally, the world gets along with this complexity through the millions of people involved, with lots of little gains being made in different places all the time.
Speeding up this natural progression is a way to increase productivity.
What is proposed is to involve the whole supply chain in swarm activity – finding and implementing massive numbers of micro improvements at a far faster rate than the natural progression. Importantly, everyone joins in the activity and benefits.
The advantages with small changes are faster agreement, more committed individuals, gradual change, low risks, with individuals feeling part of the success. Where a small change fails, then it is easy to try something different until it succeeds.
- a more motivated supply chain, enthusiastically finding new and better ways,
- cultivating better culture and behaviours,
- improving trust, understanding, support and collaboration across the supply chain,
- accelerating the pace of change,
- significant gains for everyone.
The capability of lots of small improvements is well understood.
- A test case with 200 organisations (partly paid for by the EU ERDF fund) proved that small improvement opportunities exist in large numbers in construction and just need simple techniques to find them.
- Sir David Brailsford in what he called marginal gains used similar methods to achieve world-beating cycling performance in both the Olympics and Tour de France.
- Lean Thinking, Six Sigma and Value Engineering are all arrangements to find lots of small improvements.
The many bigger ideas in the industry however still have an important part to play. They act as a catalyst for the team to identify many small opportunities. Workshops organised for the whole supply chain, discuss one of the bigger ideas and then map the processes involved and along the way identify scores of small improvement opportunities. Any of the big ideas will work multiple times as a catalyst, see the list of possibilities. Crucially, the industry moves steadily to the achievement of all the big ideas over time.
Proposed guidance includes five well-established concepts into the one high performance easy and low-cost approach:
- Supply chain management
- Collaborative workshops
- All the industry big ideas
- Process mapping
- Marginal gains
The whole supply chain takes part in regular workshops with say ten organisations participating in each workshop.
The first section explains the concept behind the workshops and obtains commitment to the need to improve. Next discuss a big idea as a catalyst to map the processes, identify scores of small improvements along the way. Once the small ideas flow with say 50 items per workshop, eventually there should be a substantial benefit to everyone. The spread of ideas across the supply chain unlocks further small initiatives and so makes even more beneficial progress.
The final part of the workshop requires everyone to sign off on their individual plans on what actions they willingly wish to take.
We have tested the different parts and conducted limited testing of the whole procedure. We believe the method is relatively simple to implement and will result in numerous marginal gains, culture change and more rapid progress towards achieving many of the bigger ideas.
We are now progressing to a beta stage and need the involvement of working supply chains in the industry.
The beta stage means producing guidance to enable any organisation to implement the methodology with their supply chain. We are looking for groups willing to give it a try and report back what they find. We can use that to improve the guidance.
Industry Big Ideas that could be included:
- Simpler more efficient bidding process
- Early involvement of the whole supply chain and parallel working
- Increased collaboration
- Better quality
- Better safety, health, welfare, and work environment
- Clear customer benefits & returns
- BIM implementation
- Cost efficient low carbon solutions
- Lean thinking and value engineering
- Just in time and improved logistics
- Waste reduction of all types
- Offsite manufacture
- New methods, technology and R&D
- Mechanisation, automation, robotics
- Develop human resources, management, skills and professional development
- Good neighbour and society dialogue
Contact: John Hall, 07768 607014, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Hall is the Regional Director for Constructing Excellence in the East of England