We have all faced the Blue Screen of death (especially when a deadline looms). That sick feeling we get when we have been working hard on something and suddenly our computer locks up. The pit in your stomach grows as you hold down the power button for 5-10 seconds, the time necessary to hard boot the computer. Will our work still be there? Will we be able to restart the machine at all? Will we be able to make that presentation that’s now only ½ hour away?
What happens, what causes our trusty laptop to throw up the “I surrender” blue screen? Quite simply, it runs out of resources. It does not have enough processing power to be able to handle all the tasks it is being asked to deal with. When this happens we are usually left with three options: Ask the computer to do less (ie run less programs), give the computer more resources (ie increase the RAM), or fix/remove the inefficient or broken processes that are stealing the available resources (ie more efficient use of available resources). As we race to get more done with fewer resources, we end up implementing a combination of all 3 strategies. To meet the deadline we run only the bare essentials. If we have time we boot up in Safe mode to try and isolate which process is causing the pain. We start monitoring which applications are consuming most of the memory. Eventually however Moore’s Law kicks in and we end up upgrading the laptop, doubling the available processing power for half the price we paid last time. This unfortunately masks the real problem. Doubling processing power for half the cost removes the constraints, letting us return to our old sloppy habits. We load more and more applications, ignoring their impact on our operating system, until we eventually hit the next constraint (has anyone else run out of room in their free icloud account?).
Unfortunately Manufacturing doesn’t have the luxury to just throw resources at their constraints. In fact in many cases, manufacturers are forced to do more with fewer resources. (Note: Inexpensive labor in foreign markets would be a manufacturing example of just throwing more resources at a problem) They have to be extremely strategic in identifying processes that are stealing time and attention. They have to assess and “Learn to See” the processes that are poorly integrated with the rest of the plant, wasteful and/or uncontrolled.
Companies that look to Outsource an aspect of their manufacturing process see it as an opportunity to improve the focus of their team, by freeing up their time, their energy and their need to manage these non-core aspects of their operation. Once a process is identified as being wasteful , uncontrolled or inefficient, Outsourcing can be a tremendous opportunity to free up resources and improve plant focus. With the right outsourcing partner, implemented the right way, the path to improved productivity and focus occurs quickly. Plants committed to continual improvement and true innovation around their core expertise need to look to outsourcing as a strategic opportunity to reach their goals more quickly. In fact processes that in the past may never have been considered as an outsourcing opportunity should be re-evaluated to determine if they are in fact stealing resources, limiting growth.