Why Companies Struggle to Sustain Operational Gains

David Pate | October 19, 2017 | 

Research shows that most companies need help sustaining their gains from operational excellence initiatives. A powerful combination of process rigor and technology enables unbeatable, effective execution.

If you’ve recently completed an operational excellence initiative and you’re already seeing the results—standardized processes, reduced costs, improved quality, or time savings, for example—you and your team deserve to be proud. But before you pop the cork and start the celebration, keep in mind there’s still some hard work to be done.

Namely, how are you going to sustain those improvements long-term?

According to recent research by the National Center for the Middle Market and Dr. Peter Ward, a professor of operational management at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, more than two-thirds of mid-sized companies (with annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion) and three-quarters of larger firms struggle to sustain the improvements they make.

Why is keeping up the good work so hard to do? In a lot of cases, it’s because companies lack the right technology to enable, automate, and streamline the process rigor they must have to continue executing at a higher level. (Read this post to learn more about the role of process rigor in sustaining operational excellence.)

5 Technology Issues that Can Derail Operational Improvements

Without the right software and systems, operational improvements have ways of petering out. Here are some of the major tech-related problems companies face:

  1. Disparate data. Companies have mountains of data. But they often lack the tools and expertise to understand where the critical data resides or to access it so that the business can use in in impactful ways. Without the proper resources for corralling the right data into one place and delivering it to the right people at the right time, business leaders can’t really understand what’s happening in their operations. And therefore, they can’t make informed and timely decisions to keep process improvements going.
  2. Poor visibility and accountability. Spreadsheets will only get a business so far. Often, the data in them is inaccurate or out of date. And you can’t roll up daily, weekly, and monthly metrics in the sheet to see how they relate to higher level business initiatives or strategic goals. Without technology that enables data visualization and analytics, it’s difficult for organizations to understand where they need to focus resources or make changes to keep process improvements running smoothly.
  3. Lack of problem-solving tools. Even if an initiative, project, system, or process works great out of the gate, problems will eventually arise that can stall progress. Without tools and technology that alert people at all levels to issues, and more importantly, give them the ability to identify the root causes and develop action plans to follow through to resolution, the improvement processes you put in place will likely fall flat.
  4. One-and-done mentality. Leadership teams often fail to fully grasp the ‘continuous’ part of continuous improvement. Because performance results reside in ever-changing, always dynamic conditions, improvement work is never really done. Companies need stamina along with a genuine desire to continuously look for ways to make processes and operations better. Technology that makes it possible to analyze trends and leverage that information for ongoing planning makes it much easier to stay focused on achieving goals and making continual progress.
  5. Lack of automation. Improvement projects can often go the way of their leaders. If the person who spearheaded the project moves on or moves up in the organization, the initiative may lose steam without its champion at the helm. Some turnover is inevitable. But automating processes as much as possible y can help keep projects from running out of steam, regardless of who is currently in charge.

Automated Process Rigor Can Tip the Scale for Greater Sustainment

According to the Center’s research, companies are much more successful at sustaining improvements when they adopt a formal method or approach. The majority of companies that use methods like Six Sigma, Lean, or Advanced Manufacturing Techniques say that those approaches are highly effective.

At Dploy Solutions, our suite of operational excellence tools enables and automates the formal process rigor that is central to these types of approaches. Our software works hand-in-hand with the TBM Management System to deliver both the data and the visibility your company needs to understand operational performance. And it provides tools for making progress toward strategic goals every day. With Dploy Solutions, companies get the support they need to stay focused on sustaining their operational gains long term.

eGuide Demonstrates the Role of Technology in Sustaining Gains Made from OpEx Improvements

Our latest e-guide explores the Center’s research on how to sustain operational improvements, and it outlines how the Dploy Solutions suite of operational excellence tools works with the TBM Management System to help your company adopt the Center’s recommendations. To learn how you can leverage operational excellence to drive sustainable, profitable growth, download our eGuide today.

Operational excellence improvements - process rigor

David Pate
David Pate

A skilled business leader with experience in both process and discrete manufacturing. Learn More About David Pate.