As the world changes, the way manufacturers do business becomes more and more complex as they adjust to the increasingly more sophisticated customer. How effective they are in doing so largely rests on their ability to efficiently and effectively keep their production plants running smoothly – and minimizing the impact any issues that arise, in the present or future, will have on their bottom line.
Enter Kepner-Tregoe, a multinational management consulting and training services company, who have recently released a new app geared towards the manufacturing world and the problems that emerge, or can emerge, in production plants all around the world. In a conversation with Steve Engelhardt of Industry Today, the company’s CEO, Chris Geraghty, and its head of product development, Wayne Stottler, talk about the ideas that went into the app, what it will do for manufacturing businesses, and how it has fared so far since being released at the end of October.
The app is merely a reproduction of the thinking processes and strategies conceived at Kepner-Tregoe over the years, and served as a response to the growing needs Geraghty saw emerging in the world of manufacturing.
He says that his company puts a lot of trust in the feedback they receive from their members and customers, and whose collective responses were ultimately one of the main driving factors in creating the app.
“We went to our clients and asked them what they needed from us to improve their experience with our already-existing programs and tools,” Geraghty says, adding, “and their feedback was that they really enjoyed our processes but were having difficulty getting somebody right at that point where the initial problems were happening, where you could see, smell, hear, and feel the problem happening, and gather information right there on the spot.”
And that’s exactly what Geraghty and Stottler sought to fix, and what their app subsequently does.
“One of the key metrics in manufacturing is overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and our tools, including the app, do a very good job providing ways in which to improve it,” Geraghty says.
Five Tool Plan
The app features five modules that stem from Kepner-Tregoe’s “Clear Thinking” process, which focuses on:
- Situation Appraisal;
- Problem Analysis;
- Decision Analysis;
- Potential Problem Analysis;
- Potential Opportunity Analysis.
Geraghty says the tool’s problem solving and decision-making capabilities can go a long way in aiding a company’s ability to continue to run smoothly in the face of a problem or issue. “When something goes wrong in a factory, where a machine breaks down, or something has changed, our tool will help you quickly identify the cause and provide you with the means to the get your production back up and running as soon as possible,” Geraghty says.
He says that the app’s capabilities allow the user to be guided through established processes, and provides them with an abundance of real time information on the spot, so they can run analytics and reports which can then be sent to other employees who can work with them to fix the issue. “The app’s functions allow you to take pictures, upload them directly to the app, and send reports out to other members of the company, so that the decision makers have all the resources they need before deciding what to do next,” says Stottler.
The app’s ability to not only effectively manage current problems and decisions but also those that could arise in the future, are what make it such a dynamic tool. So, say a manufacturer is introducing a new product in their assembly line and wishes to make a change in their operating process, the app will help conduct a Potential Problem Analysis (PPA) to determine any areas where something could go wrong,” says Geraghty, adding, “the whole thing complements the employees knowledge and experience, so that wherever there is risk involved, our tools will identify it and the employees can make calculated decisions based upon it as to how to avoid it before it’s too late.”
At the end of the day, he says the app’s value comes down to “its mobility, where you’re taking the power of what you learned in the classroom or the office, and bringing that and applying it in the factory, in real time, right there on the floor.”
Keeping the User in Mind
Stottler also notes that as effective as the processes are that went into the app, it was just as important to design it in a manner that is very user friendly, no matter the age or experience of the user. “The training that is present in the app is based on a systematic way of thinking that’s highly applicable to users of all generations,” he says, noting that the app’s compatibility with users was something he and his production team were “highly conscious of” during development.
Since the app was released on October 31st, iPad and Android tablet users in manufacturing have been scooping it up. In fact, Stottler says the app reached 70 percent of its one-year download goal before it had even been out in the market for a full month.
According to iTunes, the top five countries where users downloaded the app were the Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S. Even more significant was the fact that, while the app is free to current Kepner-Tregoe members, the paid version, available to everyone else, has accounted for over 20 percent of all downloads. It shows that people outside of the Kepner-Tregoe circle are taking notice and sharing their experience with others in regards to the app’s effectiveness.
Handling problems at their source and making decisions that could have long-term effects can be difficult, even intimidating. But with Kepner-Tregoe’s app, users can express confidence in dealing with these matters, and know that they’ll have all the ammo they need to be successful.
Kepner-Tregoe is a multinational training services and management consulting company, with offices in North America, Europe, Asutralia, Japan, and Southeast Asia. They have been offering problem solving solutions for the last 50 years and today, they have evolved into a premier company that prides itself on creating business processes that are used by millions of people worldwide to achieve sustainable results.