Publication: The Indian Express

Scale as you grow your manufacturing business with Project management

The manufacturing sector across the world has been vexed by many issues. There are global supply chain disruptions occasionally.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” This was said by Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric under whose two-decade-long leadership, the company’s market value rose from $12 Billion to $410 Billion. This highlights the importance of the effective execution of numerous initiatives and projects. The success of strategy execution follows from successful project execution.

The manufacturing sector across the world has been vexed by many issues. There are global supply chain disruptions occasionally. Financial sector upheavals often lead to the unavailability of working capital just when you need it. Wars and diplomatic tensions make market or supply chain access difficult. Those in discreet manufacturing would know the pains of how orders keep varying from year to year. Large manufacturing organizations must deal with distributed workforces, regional compliances, and logistics which are often beyond their control.

Government policies sometimes force the manufacturers to find alternatives to raw materials, fuel sources or even mandates innovation of new processes to accommodate the requirements. It’s part of the continuous improvement philosophy which tends to guide the manufacturing industry towards adopting better risk management, higher safety standards and improved quality measures. For instance, manufacturers in India are gradually opening up to concepts like ZED (Zero Effect, Zero Defect).

Thus, the key drivers for a manufacturing business now essentially include innovation, process change, expansion, new market development and building product agility. Responding to these requires execution of specific projects defined with clear vision and goals, within set timelines and costs. Project management, hence, becomes critical for any manufacturing business. The myriad implementations and innovations including expansion, product changes and operational improvements, if not managed well, can severely impact a company’s ROI.

Manish Godha, Founder & CEO, Advaiya explains in detail:

Translating business priorities to project success

Project management methodologies aside, a business needs to ensure that it focuses on the right projects which are aligned and optimized to its priorities. To set an Enterprise Project Management (EPM) context, the business needs to know the intrinsic and extrinsic business drivers, which translate into business priorities. That’s where the business drivers get reviewed and their relative impact is identified. For example, traditional printing business might want to decide whether to invest in increasing the capacity of existing facility or to diversify into new line of business; let’s say ‘packaging’ which is rapidly growing as a new segment.

Undertaking such ventures require massive investments and inputs in terms of planning and project management. Portfolio based approach allows an organization to optimize its investment mix. An analytical approach where various project proposals are evaluated and prioritized based on their impact on well-identified business drivers is thus central to organization’s sustained success.

There may be several such initiatives within the organization which need to be managed simultaneously. Project managers need visibility across such initiatives to be able to better manage projects that span across the ecosystem.

Effective project management requires better resource optimization and insights. Once the business priorities and their challenges are identified, those must be communicated across the organization. As the teams get large, several functional groups emerge which often loose visibility among themselves. There needs to be a collaborative participation between these groups to work on those challenges and find common goals. Once these teams start collaborating, the need of an EPM strategy becomes really pronounced. Consolidating all the project management data to get a centralized overview is a great way to bring visibility to the initiatives.

Thinking project management beyond operations

Every manufacturing businesses has different project needs. Some are more labor oriented while some are dependent on material. Then some others need highly specialized manufacturing which rely on high precision, or they need massive investments in state-of-the-art facilities. Some contract manufacturing might require generation of intellectual properties like unique designs or patented systems which need innovation management. The project management tools used by the teams should address these business needs and centralize them for the managers to help take decisions. Be it portfolio planning tools, project scheduling and management solutions, business applications, collaboration tools, data infrastructure or business intelligence dashboards, all of these are essential parts of the overall project management framework.

What really becomes important in terms of project management is to deliver the benefits of the business transformation to its customers. There are three main touchpoints for that:

1. Driving product innovation:

For growing manufacturing companies there can be diverse business needs, such as product innovation. Innovation is key to organizations and it’s really important to manage ideas effectively so that best ideas can be taken into consideration and can be executed. It holds the key to increasing productivity, which is the key to maintaining competitiveness in manufacturing. Project management tools can be great productivity enablers for product teams and marketing teams alike as they can track, manage and schedule their activities, allocate tasks and review team utilization all at one place. This enables managers to build reliable, collaborative teams, helping them take quicker, informed decisions that help them capture, evaluate and prioritize ideas and tasks.

Project management tools like Microsoft Project enables manufacturing organizations to have a systematic method of fostering innovation by collaboratively capturing, evaluating, and developing ideas to conclusions. They support best practices and planning tools to enhance product design, thereby reducing communication gaps and product design time.

With the help of team collaboration, standard processes for idea evaluation, scoring and prioritization, new initiatives and investments can be aligned with the organization’s business strategy. On the other hand, development cycle times and the time in getting products to market can be reduced by storing and reusing product design information. This can in turn help address risks early in the production and reduce gaps across the production teams enabling satisfied and engaged customers.

2. Strengthening value chain:

Businesses go through a series of consecutive steps that go into the creation of a finished product, from its initial design to delivery. Ensuring that each step adds a certain value to the product is one of the key goals for any manufacturing business. For strengthening the value chain, businesses need to adhere to set compliance and audit requirements and closely monitor their projects. This can be ensured through effective control of the project work with a project management tool.

Complex supply chains need multiple project initiatives to keep them running and rejuvenated. Businesses need to run multiple projects for identifying, optimizing and improving various facets of supply chain globally. Project management solutions provide manufacturing organizations capabilities for optimizing portfolios, resource allocation, and capacity utilization. They can provide visibility to a company’s strategic initiatives which are crucial for executives to make well-informed decisions, and manage project risks.

3. Improving on existing systems:

To ensure efficiency and process adherence for quality delivery, businesses need to constantly develop on existing systems, enabling standardized business processes. When business processes are standardized, it helps growing organizations to ensure efficiency and best practice adherence to ensure quality delivery. With the help of a comprehensive scheduling system and capacity planning capabilities that come with project management, businesses can work on bringing further improvements to existing systems to help them stay relevant in the dynamic business environment. And with governance and clear visibility of all business processes, manufacturing organizations can adhere to process improvement.

The functionality of best practices templates found in project management tools, businesses can speed up project execution and adopt global standards which are key for growing businesses. At same time, such solutions are extensible and customizable so they can be integrated easily with other business applications as needed.
Leading a business toward achieving its vision is what capable project management does for a company. Proper project management can keep the management, workforce, and customers/clients satisfied. Successful project management goes beyond tracking and visibility. Project proposals, planning and budgeting, vendor management, regulatory, quality, and people-related elements must all be carefully considered. Managing projects has its own idiosyncrasies and challenges unique to individual organizations; which an effective project management office (PMO) understands, and uses the right technology solutions for planning, visibility, collaboration and analysis.

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