What are the four key actions that senior engineers should consider taking to build process resilience across their organisations?
If taken, these actions will help protect companies, push them to think and act differently, and establish a culture of continuous improvement, which will be the foundation for future process improvements, stability, and transformation.
That is according to findings in the second report in The Resilience Index* series – The Resilience Index: Process – How a focus on process can build better resilience and drive productivity.
The four actions are:
1. Continue to innovate. The UK is ranked third in the world and first in Europe for innovation (measured by patent registration 2000-2015). With a strong research and development heritage, it is vital UK manufacturers continue to invest in process improvements across all areas of their operation.
Senior engineers should seek to build a network of peers and partners (such as RS Components) to help understand the opportunities and challenges offered by emerging technologies.
Keeping an open mind to new ways to solve problems is key. While tried and tested methods can be the best, in many cases new technologies can support solving the problems in a cheaper or faster way.
Looking to invest in small-scale, reversible pilots to understand the benefits of emerging technology, without the risk of being at the bleeding edge of innovation, is also a practical option to boost process resilience through innovation.
2. Build capacity back-up. Many companies still need to improve the reliability and robustness of their processes by building in redundancy support so systems can withstand unpredictable and unplanned failures. There must be prioritisation of the duplication of critical components or functions of a system to increase reliability. However, being efficient is still important, as carrying too much overhead will also impair resilience.
Redundancy planning must be risk-based. Analyse processes and risk assess what could cause issues and the financial impact of them occurring. Then insure against them through building process redundancy, investing, improving asset reliability, contingency planning, and building partnerships.
3. Think differently about outsourcing. Outsourcing strategies need to focus on the benefits that can be gained alongside potential cost savings. For example, outsourcing can increase quality and innovation or make processes more efficient, for instance, by outsourcing control of the site’s inventory to experts. Strategies should carefully consider if outsourcing decisions free enough internal capacity to help the organisation concentrate on core competencies or allow for quicker adaptations or transformations. The default position of taking processes in-house to drive cost efficiencies needs to be continually challenged, and the holistic benefits of a strategic outsourcing approach closely scrutinised.
When reviewing processes ask deep questions about why and the benefit of doing it in-house. Could there be great advantages to outsourcing?
4. Continuously improve. Invest in a commitment to build and embed a continuous improvement culture, and the relentless identification and eradication of losses or inefficiencies. Crucially, acknowledge that small, iterative changes over the long-term will have a compound effect on processes. As an ongoing obligation, it requires active leadership from the top to empower bottom-up improvement.
Examine basic processes and aim to incrementally enhance efficiencies and effectiveness. This can be applied to single or multiple processes within the organisation, including procurement strategies; stockholding; energy conversion and consumption; proactive maintenance regimes across the plant, or even workforce patterns. Taking small improvement steps can make a big difference over the long-term – but it requires a proactive, can-do attitude with total company buy-in.
Learn more about the different continuous improvement techniques, such as Lean and Six Sigma and develop a strategy to build a continuous improvement mindset in operations.
Richard Jeffers, Director of Maintenance Solutions at RS Components, which commissioned the report, said: “It is estimated that transforming manufacturing resilience in the UK could add £26bn of productivity value to the economy, and it’s clear, that strengthening process resilience has an important role to play in achieving this.
“The report shows how senior engineers should view improving process resilience not as a start-stop programme, but one that builds a culture of continuous improvement. Establishing this will underpin all areas, drive forward innovation and help businesses to begin to think differently about how to address and implement process change and progress.
“At RS Components, we aim to support senior engineers seeking to improve their company’s resilience through a culture of continuous improvement with a suite of customised services and solutions. Acknowledging that our customers will be at different stages on their continuous improvement journey, we offer bespoke services and support to suit individual needs, so, no matter what stage they are at, engineers within any industry can strengthen their process resilience and reap the rewards that brings.”
For a copy of The Resilience Index: Process report, click HERE.
* The Resilience Index is a comprehensive and unique investigation of six datasets from the past 20 years covering manufacturing investment, productivity, and employment to track resilience across some of the UK’s most prominent industries.