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Stuff Happens

Updated: 4 days ago

Complacency Stifles Innovation

Back in the 1980s, when I was learning how to build a quality-driven mindset within our small manufacturing company staff, there was a bumper sticker that got very popular that said “Stuff Happens.” (No, it didn’t actually say “stuff,” but you get the idea. ) I guess it was the edgy older sibling of “Don’t worry, be happy.” In other words, don’t worry about anything because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. However, that uncaring, dispassionate mantra was diametrically opposed to my efforts to get everyone on as “part of the solution” as I mentioned in another article.

In the “old world” of 1950s manufacturing, people were treated as unthinking robots, and their thoughts and opinions weren’t solicited nor valued. These were the days when Japanese cars were flooding the U.S. market with superior quality products, and people in America started wondering, “What happened, and how can these products be so good?!” What happened is that, instead of trying to compete, we in America had fallen into the mindset that we couldn’t possibly do any better when we were already the best. However, on the flip side, if nobody else did better than us, then there was no reason to innovate because we simply assumed that we were already building the best products in the world. This complacency leads to less innovation, which leads to less participation. Not a good mindset, and certainly not one I wanted for our company.

So, how did they get so good? Well, for Toyota, they created the Toyota Production System. In it, each staff member is required to make proactive suggestions on how to improve quality – not annually, not monthly, but daily. It changed the attitudes of both workforce and management because it valued innovation and participation, and while most companies in the U.S. understand this today, we spent the majority of the 80s and 90s trying to catch up.

Now, we have formal processes for in place for Corrective Action (I actually liked having Preventive Actions too.), and more sophisticated “Idea Management” processes to solicit and act on staff suggestions. When a company culture values the input from every single individual, and everyone is focused on attaining continuous improvement, then we are all responsible for our products and processes. It isn’t a culture where we just say “stuff happens.” Our job is to prevent bad stuff from happening in the first place!

Of course, many of these suggestions and process improvements can be permanently ingrained in a modern ERP system like Epicor. So, if your ERP does not have the capability to build workflows and heuristically dependent processes, then, I hate to break it to you, but you really don’t have a robust ERP system.

But, don’t worry! Epicor integrates modern production management processes with both quality management and content management in order to facilitate world class manufacturing. Of course, your management team also needs to understand these concepts and how to take advantage of them outside of the system…and that’s where our team of EpiCenter consultants comes in! If you need our help to understand how to take your company to the next level, I’d be happy to personally discuss this with you. Please reach out below if you’d like to explore the possible ways to greatly improve your products and processes.

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