In 1984, Eli Goldratt wrote “The Goal”; a short fable about managing the capacity and constraints in a manufacturing business. This book is a great introduction to the Theory of Constraints – a way to analyze and overcome the bottlenecks in your business.
Although many countertop fabricators think of themselves as craftsmen, over time shops have become more process-oriented, especially when they introduce CNC’s into their production workflow. Here are four lessons from The Goal to help with running your shop as a manufacturing business.
1. Find the bottlenecks in your business. During the housing boom, installation capacity was the bottleneck for most countertop fabricators. You could build countertops fast enough and buy machines to increase your production rate, but hiring qualified stone and solid surface installers was incredibly difficult.
Now, that the constraint has shifted. Our customers tell us that sales and the front office have become the bottleneck in their business. If they can get more sales or produce estimates faster, they can grow. In The Goal, identifying the constraint on your business is the first step to letting you achieve your goal – and the goal for every business is ultimately money.
2. Get everyone to understand the problem. Changing your business is hard. It’s vital that before making any change, you get your partners and employees to understand why you’re making a change in your business, what you’re going to change, and how to change.
We’ve found that if the whole office isn’t on board with changing how they schedule and track jobs, then implementing software is difficult. If everyone understands the problems they’re trying to solve and the reasons for a change, getting started is much easier.
3. Do everything possible to overcome the bottleneck. If you’ve identified a particular part of your shop as the constraint, manage everything else around it to make sure it’s no longer the bottleneck in your production process. And, if sales is the problem, gear everything around that.
I’ve talked to several countertop shops who’ve turned all of their employees into salespeople for limited-time promotions, like remnant sales. Everybody, from the receptionist to the sawyer is out in the slab yard working with customers.
4. Go back to step #1. The hardest lesson in The Goal is that you’re never done. There will always be a new bottleneck in your business, change you need to make, and new ways to overcome the constraints. It’s a process of continual improvement.
If you haven’t already read it, go out and buy The Goal today.