Often times we can find ourselves knowing where we want to go but not knowing where to start. This is a common theme when it comes to digital transformation. Not surprisingly, we have seen many of our customers use EAC assessments as the first step to open up a world of opportunities for their company to grow and evolve its processes.
JR Automation has been an EAC customer for over a decade, and when we first started working with them, the first action was an EAC assessment. We were able to provide them a customized roadmap for success and prove how JR was going to achieve it. EAC has helped JR Automation find ways to save time, save money and increase efficiency – with savings over $1.4 million every year. JR took the first step with EAC helping them to find that starting point. Today JR continues to find new ways to innovate and evolve with growing customer demands in a highly competitive marketplace.
What to Expect from an EAC Assessment
Assessments can seem daunting at first. You may be asking yourself questions like, “Are they going to come in and tell us all the things we are doing wrong?”
In reality, our goal with assessments is to identify your current state and production and manufacturing processes, assess the maturity of your operational technologies, and work with your team to pinpoint an ideal future state. Making transformational changes to a company can be a sizable cultural shift and we help companies prepare to make that change. There are risks you take when you don’t assess your current situation, and we want to help you minimize those risks.
Functional Group Assessment (FGA)
The EAC Functional Group Assessment provides an objective format for your functional groups to truly understand their creation, consumption, and delivery of product data. These groups could consist of any cross-sectional team members from engineering, design, manufacturing, sales, marketing, or management.
During an FGA, our team of subject-matter experts will work to understand how your key team members work daily to complete the product development process. After the evaluation is complete and our experts have uncovered your current processes and technology usage, we will help you establish a roadmap that will lead your company to higher productivity and savings across the board.
After our findings have been documented and studied, we will lay out new possible methods and functions to improve overall productivity. These recommendations could include ways to improve capability gaps, business policy improvements, procedures that ensure efficiency and alignment, or strategies for training to maintain efficiency.
The benefits of an FGA could span from understanding your Functional Group alignment to business objectives and initiatives and their use of existing toolsets to examining processes and daily tasks that reflect your current state. We also uncover overall awareness of opportunities for improvement and bring alignment to Functional Vision for your desired future state.
Ultimately, we help you create a plan to achieve that desired state so you can spend less time wondering how to grow and more time-saving money through innovation. Companies like ITW Paslode and Nordco have taken advantage of the FGA and have seen the financial value in getting started on the transformational journey.
Digital Transformation Assessment (DTA)
Similar to the FGA, a Digital Transformation Assessment is an EAC-provided service that explores an organization’s product development system functionality. Our experts look at an organization’s operations and provide broad insight into improvement initiatives and establish a strategy for achieving operational improvement of a product development system.
When working through this assessment, our team has candid one-on-one discussions with your team members where we uncover what is working well, any occurred costs, and evaluate optimization opportunities.
The results that stem from an EAC Assessment are unmatched. Companies are discovering data they never knew were siloed, teams that were frustrated with processes, and many other disruptions in production. After uprooting and addressing these issues, companies like JR Automation, HyrdaForce, DRS, Merrick, and Systems Control are able quote more business and respond to customers faster – increasing their profit as well as employee and customer satisfaction.
Streamlined Digital Transformation Assessment (SDTA)
Similar to the functional DTA, the Streamlined Digital Transformation Assessment focuses on the interviews and direct inputs from your team members. However, it does not include an online survey and corresponding metric output. This assessment is offered as one variation of the Digital Transformation Assessment to fit your specific needs.
This assessment is a great fit for companies that have the desire to optimize their product development system, have the approval to move forward with the optimization, but are unsure where to start or what to focus on first.
While there are a few exclusions from the full DTA in this assessment, our team still coordinates select participants to plan and schedule the execution of individual interviews with participants involved in the assessment. This process will be a higher level approach than a full DTA, and may not include as many details or metrics. This assessment is still an excellent tool to explore your current business functions and define a roadmap to success.
Digital Manufacturing Assessment (DMA)
The Digital Manufacturing Assessment evaluates the overall state of your current product development systems regarding IoT initiatives, provides broad organizational visibility to improvement initiatives and identifies an IoT solution roadmap to help you determine the very first steps you should take on your digital transformational journey.
After evaluating your current manufacturing practices and operations, our experts will identify the best opportunities for growth that align with your corporate goals. When Kimray did a DMA with our team, they were able to recognize technology and solutions that would integrate with their current processes and also propel them to the next level in production. Together we developed a strategic roadmap that enhanced their processes.
The opportunities and pathways are endless to how your company can achieve digital transformation in the same way – a DMA is a great place to start.
Value Stream Mapping Assessment (VSMA)
A Value Stream Mapping Assessment consists of documenting the key action steps during production, gathering information from inputs and outputs, examining the systems used to manage that information, and pinpointing key optimization opportunities at each step. After, our experts work with your team to define an ideal future state of your product development process. The future process documentation outlines key improvements needed in business principles, policies, processes, and procedures utilizing the latest systems available to you to facilitate those improvements. Our EAC experts then defines a high-level roadmap and guidance on how to achieve those improvements.
During a VSMA, your team can expect to receive an important strategy that documents your current state including process documentation, pains, and what those pains are costing your business. With this information, together we will curate the vision of your future state – what your development could be – and create a roadmap on how to get there.
The company MEANS had EAC come in for a VSMA and was able to get a roadmap on system integrations that opened up the opportunities for better processes to connect their company. With an EAC roadmap, MEANS was able to realize a future state of streamlined processes to get their product to market faster and with less downtime.
When to Start
Now that we’ve answered the “what” and “why” of EAC assessments, the next question is “when.” Knowing you want to take your business to the next level, but feeling like you don’t how or where to start is the perfect time to invest in an assessment. Our ultimate goal is to understand your unique enterprise, your corporate strategic goals, and its current state, define your ideal future state, and plan an achievable way to get there together. EAC’s Assessment services can be the stepping stones for long-term company success and Digital Transformation.
Want to hear more testimonials or see which assessment would fit your company best and see how we could transform the way you do business? Connect with one of our experts!
Risk… what does it mean?
For some, it is crossing the street. For others, it is starting a company with the last of their own money, or money from an expectant and hopeful investor.
But, what does it mean for companies/customers? Ultimately, I think it drives everything at a company. For some companies, often publicly traded, risk is not an option. Everything they do must have a strong business case to produce more revenue with little or no risk. Smaller companies tend to be much more willing to take risks. Sometimes it’s the only way to get the growth they so desperately want and need. In between you’ll find many companies along the willing-to-take-on-risk spectrum.
How do you convince your company or customer to take a risk?
One way is to downplay the risk. Not a good idea. It can, and likely will, bite you in the end. No, you must address risk head on. You must out weigh the risk with the potential benefits. Show examples of success. Find and present metrics from those that have gone before you. Show the potential benefit the customer/company can recognize if they accept the proposed risk. Even after all that, you may only open the door to considering an improvement project. It does not guarantee a person or company will proceed.
You must address the risk
Address the risk head on. Show how you, or your company, will mitigate risk throughout the venture. Always keep in mind the customer’s or your company’s view on risk. It could be as simple as a loss of the investment into a project. On the other end of the spectrum could be lost customers, lost revenue, or even lost jobs. By not dismissing the risk, but acknowledging it and trying to prevent it, it shows your commitment to the customer, whether internal or external. It shows you are a partner, not just someone trying to sell an idea and run.
In the end, everyone wants to grow. Very few want to take the risks needed to grow. If you’re trying to help your customer or company grow and improve, you must prove you will do everything possible to manage risk, but not dismiss its existence in the first place.
Assessments help organizations avert risk
Are you in the process of accepting risk in order to improve, grow, or move in a new direction? We offer many solutions that can help mitigate risk — solutions and services with proven track records that adhere to best practices. We also offer a Product Development System Assessment (PDSA) and Functional Group Assessment (FGA) to help align organizations, define strategic direction, and help map the best course forward. Download our PDSA brochure or FGA brochure to learn more. Please share your experience and thoughts about accepting and managing risk in the comments below.
When is PDSA season?
We all know when it’s cold and flu season and what precautions to take to get back to health or at least dial down the symptoms. However, do we recognize when it’s time to conduct a Product Development System Assessment (PDSA) to get our organization back to health?
To analogize a real life situation, if someone is sick and goes to the doctor, the doctor would want to treat the immediate sickness and then propose a physical to determine what else is going on within the patient’s body. The doctor then sets a diagnosis for continuous improvement of health. A PDSA lends itself to something close to this from a product development standpoint.
An organization must first acknowledge a problem from a department stakeholder (i.e: Vice President, Director, Manager). They must obtain an understanding of how this problem effects downstream departments and create a sense of urgency that this one problem, is only one problem, and more problems are likely to be a major inhibitor to reaching goals.
Sure, organizations can operate with these inefficiencies and still make products, but we want them to know that they could make even more products or run more projects by taking part in a PDSA, which is when we come in to align an organization’s goals and measure achievement recognition through a secure and obtainable continuous improvement plan. PDSA’s are our way of measuring an organizations pain in their processes and providing a long-term solution to provide continuous improvement and maintain a healthy organization.
PDSA’s are the only way for EAC to truly understand the heartbeat of a company and the only way a customer or prospect can become a partner. Their goals become our goals for that organization.
Why would you want a PDSA?
PDSA’s are valuable for two reasons. First we, EAC, help clients to see their product development operation as a system which is a critical first step in making the operation better (i.e. more systematic). Secondly, we provide, as the output of the assessment, a set of high leverage improvement initiatives that will directly lead to increased productivity of their product development system.
Organizations may know something is not right with their product development operation – maybe for instance due to the number of recurring fires they fight – but they don’t know where to focus their improvement initiatives until they learn to see their operation as a system as opposed to a process.
The PDSA aligns a company’s business strategies and objectives to product development initiatives to determine areas of improvement. This is so valuable to be able to motivate a company or the internal champion to see how an improvement to a product development system would be tied to or contribute to a portion of the company’s objectives.
For example, an organizations objective or value opportunity is to reduce product development cost. Then we would streamline the product development system by making sure the people, process, and technology within a product development process are all working together without disrupting another part of the product development process thus taking waste out of the system enables reduction in cost.
During a PDSA, we engage with multifunctional groups within a company to extract process information and where waste is. Over and above that, a continuous improvement strategy will be set in place for the company to achieve the desired state or desired maturity level. Without an investment in continuous improvement, a one-time fix to a process or system will not sustain in the long term.
What’s so great about PDSA’s?
PDSA’s are learning events and EAC consultants learn something new with every PDSA because of the uniqueness of each client we work with. Beyond spreading our understanding of seeing operations as systems, it is exciting to be able to learn the details of the client’s operations and then provide critical improvement information.
The ability to tell an internal champion or the economic buyer that their organization is “leaking oil” or specifically being able to quantify to them the dollars being wasted, and that we, EAC are here to help reduce that and get them in a better state excites me. The ability to whiteboard the organizations processes and ask them why they would perform a certain task in that fashion. The ability to ask the tough questions, like “what is the biggest headache or challenge they have right now?” and “what is working well for you?” The ability to help the champion to present to their executive board is what is rewarding in the end.
We live and breathe to make a difference for our customers. PDSA’s are a mental marathon that test every part of a person’s attention to detail, savvy, note taking, and overall listening abilities. The challenge is what we get revved up for. We never know what we are going to find.
The saying “nobody is perfect” also applies to companies because no companies are perfect. Many organizations struggle with issues like getting their processes documented and their data management under control. Sometimes it is the members of the team that manage to hold it all together and enable substantial growth. However, this approach typically is neither scalable nor sustainable.
At EAC, we have a service called the Product Development System Assessment (PDSA). In short, the assessment helps identify areas within an organization that could improve — whether it be processes, data management, communication, or organizational change. We have helped companies across the country identify areas of their organizations that may not be reaching their full potential and provide them with a personalized roadmap for improvement.
One such company, Thermos (yes, Thermos — the company that made your really cool Spiderman lunchbox as a kid), has worked with EAC to identify areas where their organization could improve. “Hot Matters. Cold Matters. It Matters,” Thermos’s corporate mantra, not only identifies with their well-known product, but also refers to their high standards of quality, safety, living green, and giving back.
Over the last decade, Thermos has experienced tremendous growth. But as VP of Marketing Julie Ryan said, “We’ve got a great team and what we’ve been doing for the last 10 years has been working. But what’s making it work is the people — not the process.”
EAC was able provide a roadmap that included implementation of a project management system. This would allow Thermos to begin building a foundation that will support and sustain growth. Because let’s face it — Hot Matters. Cold Matters. It Matters.
When contemplating the idea of writing a blog, I challenged myself to justify why it would be both worth my time to write, and worth yours to read. The hope is that working through self-justification will result in a blog of greater interest and value.
Sharing the motives behind this blog through self-introduction seems the right place to start. By self-introduction, I don’t mean telling you about myself — you can find all that on LinkedIn — but rather about EAC and our shared view of product development. EAC was founded and operates on a fundamental belief that the way we (you) execute product development is fundamentally flawed. We further believe that this deteriorates America’s competitive position and unnecessarily, unacceptably demotivates the expert knowledge workers who operate within the functions critical to product success.
As an achievement-focused organization, EAC seeks first to understand the drivers and root causes of the positive and negative behaviors typical of product development environments. We then engage in the competition of ideas to produce an array of countermeasures to bring to common product development problems. One output of this internal collaboration is the Product Development Operating System (PDOS), a framework for the conduct of successful product development published on the EAC website.
An element of the PDOS gets to the heart of justifying this blog. In the PDOS, we use a maturity model to articulate an important aspect of improvement efforts within product development. Limited by flawed management habits many companies become trapped at what we call Level 2 operation, “Silo’ed”. During the maturation of a product development system, the gap from Level 2 to Level 3, “Systematic”, is the most difficult to bridge. It is EAC’s mission to help product development organizations, to borrow a phrase, cross this chasm.
Siloes are interesting. In companies, they are at first a sign of progress. The generalist of entrepreneurship reforms into specialized functional areas, enabling further growth and maturation. But they eventually become a barrier to further organizational progress. That’s not surprising; Peter Senge tells us in the first law of systems thinking that “today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions”. For these maturing companies, getting beyond the silo mentality is one important key to progress.
Earlier in my career, I spent several years working in Japan at a global manufacturing company. Japan during the course of its history had periodically shut itself off from the rest of the world. The Japanese talked about their resulting global naivety — knowing and caring about only what happened within their limited domain – as ‘ii no kaeru’, a ‘frog in a well’. A well is just an upside down silo. For functional groups, understanding their own bigger picture – the landscape in which the well or silo exists – is the first step in the work of connecting the silos and fostering systematic operation.
EAC conducts Voice-of-Customer interviews, performs Product Development System Assessments, and provides consulting services. During these events, when we visit prospects and customers, it is startling to see how hungry each company’s product development thought leaders are for stimulating and informative ideas and discussions about what can be done to improve product development operation. And that is how we justify this blog. To all of you who from time to time feel like a frog, this blog is aimed at letting you know what’s going on outside of your well.