Flexibility in a business situation is often seen as a good thing and it is in most cases. A business that can change its products, service, costs, marketing, strategy etc is far more likely to be able to take advantage of evolving opportunities within existing markets or open up new market opportunities than a business that is averse to change. The problem occurs when this change cannot be managed with the same efficiency (or better) than existing work flowing through the business because the model of how the company works at present is not suitable (efficient) with the new work. Many companies get around this by simply setting up specific procedures that apply to this new type of work only, often by-passing established procedures that are already in place within the company. Often this is mixed in with some existing practices. This is fraught with danger. While the focus of management attention is on this new work it may well appear to be manageable, but special provisions are usually made to accommodate the work going through, at some points passing outside the standard management and control procedures. Six Months later, when a second batch or similar contract is won will this all be remembered? Also, staff who have seen the standard procedures circumnavigated by senior management may now begin to regard this as acceptable practice for other standard work as and when they see fit or when it suits them, a dangerous precedent indeed.
As we all move forward, change in our lives and business is proving to become one of the biggest constants we can rely on. Not only that, but the pace of change continues to accelerate day by day. From that point of view, when we are looking to upgrade our procedures and systems to help manage our business, adaptability to change should be at the forefront of our minds. Often this brings a conundrum. Many business systems solutions actually work by formalising and making rigid our work patterns, made to fit how we are working now not guesstimating how we are likely to work in the future. No one that I have met has yet shown me a crystal ball that they have proven to work, (I wouldnt be sat here writing this article if they had!). So with the absence of being able to see into the future, the best we can do is prepare ourselves as well as we can for the inevitable change that we know is coming.
All businesses generally have a core of work that flows through their company that will (external market forces permitting) continue in a generally similar format despite future change. A precision machining company is likely to continue in that general sphere of work even though they may be moving gradually from metal CNC Machining work to laser cutting for example. It is still processing the same type of raw materials to make finished or worked components. The ideal solution towards optimising the efficiency of this type of business is to accept that the core of this work is generally what to base the solution on processing metal components whether this is to manage CNC processing (existing) or laser processing (Possible future). The management of the business around these processes will largely be similar and should be catered for in any solution assessed to take on the task.
This type of change should always if possible happen within an existing system. In that way, established work patterns of employees and management remain largely undisturbed and easy to monitor and control. A total production management system should ideally take this evolution in its stride, not with additional costs incurred every time a business takes on a new type of contract or buys a new machining centre for example.
So what is an ideal solution? The answer is: There is no one right answer. The very nature of business and the evolution of business precludes this, but the key is to base whichever solutions are assessed for the task on how well they match the core of your business (not the peripheral functions) and how cost-effectively they are at adapting to possible future change within your business. Its worth estimating how this may change for you in future and testing it against any solution you are considering. Dont just accept someone saying: yes, it will do that for you, no problem get them to prove to you it is easily (cost-effectively) achievable.
Finally, plan any change as far forward and thoroughly as possible. Really think through what you ideally want from your management and control systems and consider EXACTLY how any solution is going to work within your business, step by step.