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Today's Complacency Is Tomorrow's Casualty ...
... in the Global Business Environment
by Tom Nies, CEO, Cincom Systems, Inc.


Each day, every company steps onto an increasingly competitive global playing field. Their success and survival depend on the continual improvement of processes, products, productivity and personnel.

None do this more effectively than manufacturing companies.

None has a more high-power impact on virtually every industry than manufacturing companies do. Manufacturing accounts for about one quarter of all global economic activity.

I have looked and learned from these companies for four decades.

Principles and Processes That Work

Manufacturing principles and processes are being applied to virtually every industry in existence now, including such diverse operations as telecommunications, nanotechnology and health care.

Even high-volume document production centers that deliver such valuable customer communications as financial statements and insurance policies are being designed and operated according to manufacturing principles and processes.

A Great Place to Look and Learn

In today's global manufacturing environment, there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and nowhere to even stand still.

Today's complacency quickly becomes tomorrow's casualty. Not just in manufacturing, but in all businesses.

Manufacturing companies are a great place to learn what's working today, and what the future may bring with technology applied to business processes and principles in the competitive global environment.

Improvement Demands Change

Technologies must assist in bringing change to organizations or the competitors will.

In one sense, manufacturers have their destiny in their hands; to use technology to accentuate core organizational strengths and not be a crutch for weaknesses is where the best manufacturing companies are leading the way today.

These companies know that all improvement demands change; they know too that technologies are powerful levers for business-improving change.

Technology: A Weapon -- Never a Crutch

To compete globally, technology has to become a weapon and can never be a crutch, alleviating some shortcoming in a process or product. In fact, I see the need to link and streamline processes that were once only critical to manufacturing as essential for the efficient functioning of entire industries now.

The speed and nature of global competition has changed manufacturing and business forever … and for the better.

Keys to Operational Excellence and Global Competitiveness?

To compete globally, manufacturers need to align their vision, strategies and goals to achieve operational excellence on a global scale, in their chosen markets.

Is this any different from your business? Your industry?

The following areas are, and will be, critical to achieving global competitiveness and operational excellence:

Streamlining Quote-to-Order. Competing globally has everything to do with the ability to generate, price, manage and fulfill sales quotes accurately -- and profitably. This process pervades in entire manufacturing companies today, encompassing pricing, ERP, supply chain and services applications. Products with high complexity including HVAC, truck, bus, power generation, aircraft engines and hydraulic products require expert systems at the time quotes are created.

Is this not applicable to your business? To all businesses?

Integrated Product and Process Development. Nowhere is the competitive pressure more keenly felt today than in design-to-manufacturing process workflows, configuration management of systems, program planning, and engineering change management. Speed and accuracy over competitors matter more than ever. A field-to-factory strategy is rapidly emerging as a critical part of the future of manufacturing competitiveness. Field representatives taking orders for customizable products can instantly query manufacturing systems for key commitment dates, even schedule production, during the quoting process. Field-to-factory is revolutionizing the customer side of the manufacturing equation today.

Is this strategy not applicable in your company? Are not all customers -- whatever your industry -- desirous of the right product, the right service, the right solution, designed and personalized specifically for them … to be delivered at the right price and right time? Replace the term "field representatives" in manufacturing with customer-service representatives, sales or sales representatives, and I think you'll see the correlation.

Comprehensive Enterprise Management. The strongest global competitors use technologies to create lean, demand-driven manufacturing strategies (w2) that deliver higher levels of order fulfillment and accuracy. In addition, they accomplish this task at much less cost than previous, often manual approaches. To compete globally, manufacturers are linking-in quality and supply-chain visibility as well, achieving above-average industry performance on inventory turns and rework costs as well.

Again, to what company does this strategy, with adaptation to specific industry equivalents, not apply?

Fact-based performance management. The new dial tone of global manufacturing is analytics. Passionately pursue this vision for customers, give them the necessary solutions to manage their businesses with an intensity of focus around total results previously seen only in manufacturing. Managing to key performance indicators and metrics of performance are changing corporate cultures worldwide, making manufacturers and all businesses better at competing globally than ever before.

What All This Means

The speed and nature of global competition is making manufacturing and businesses as a whole, stronger. Why?

Because the unfit can no longer survive!

Stronger still is the focus and intensity I see, through the eyes of my role as Cincom CEO, as manufacturers facilitate processes company-wide rather than just on the manufacturing floor. As the nature and speed of competition changes, so do the simplest to the most complex processes that once were relegated to only the production floor. Now these same processes touch every aspect of a business.

Service Oriented Architectures (SOA), created to unify databases, are now deployed by manufacturers looking to link all customer-facing strategies to the rest of the business. This is just another example of how technology proven in manufacturing is becoming the enabler of global competitiveness across entire organizations.

Bottom Line?

Look and learn.

Manufacturing principles and processes have been the proving ground for technologies that are now scaling business and industries worldwide, delivering better competitive strengths, insights and the ability to successfully compete, and doing it profitably, more so than ever before.

So look and learn.

I have.


The Author

Tom Nies


Tom Nies is the longest active-serving CEO in the computer industry, recognized with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as one of the "pioneers of the software industry" by the Smithsonian Institute, and acknowledged by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 as "the epitome of the entrepreneurial spirit of American business." Cincom has generated over $100 million in revenue for 20 straight years, a feat unparalleled except for one other in the software publishing industry ... Microsoft. Tom has been named Best International Executive, along with the CEO of Adobe, at the 2005 Stevie Awards, "the business world's own Oscars," according to the New York Post, has been honored by Prime Minster Heath in 1992 for bringing the software industry to England, has been inducted into Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame in 2004.

Many more articles in Insight & Commentary in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2008 by Tom Nies. All rights reserved.

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