Friday, May 5, 2017

Operational Excellence: What It Means to Your Business and Your Customers

By: Anna Stefos

What exactly is Operational Excellence (OpEx)? It’s not easy to define since most people think only about the operational benefits associated with continuous improvement. In fact, true OpEx goes deeper and is designed to embrace an entire ecosystem of many interwoven roads of an all-inclusive, collaborative culture, with high impact to the business that has one goal: To continuously delight and surprise the customer with superior products and services they may not always even know they need or want! Companies that successfully and thoroughly adopt OpEx will realize increased revenues and customer base, enhance its corporate brand, enjoy decline in operational costs, improve its reputation, and more often than not, be the go-to company in its sector—even if they are not the lowest priced!

It’s a Journey, Not a Destination
For one thing, OpEx is not a destination! It’s a metrics-driven, entire value chain improvement journey that follows a disciplined management methodology that embraces the quest of perfection, comprehensive process improvement—be it capability or quality just to name a few—and unrelenting focus on the customer. It applies to everyone in the organization—from the highest to the actual operation level. And everyone in such an organization gets it.

In its entirety, OpEx is a business execution philosophy and methodology that supports an organization’s corporate vision, and it should not be viewed as separate from how a business is run. It integrates a Business Excellence system that requires discipline in both the planning and execution phases of the entire enterprise and one that integrates major building blocks such as:

• Performance management
Process excellence
Metrics driven methodology
Strategy deployment
High performance collaboration driven teams

Everyone Must Be On Board for Success
Operational Excellence is an enabler that empowers corporate leadership to reach the apex of the enterprise through a highly-focused, data-driven methodology that encourages proactive solutions thus eliminating, or at least significantly minimizing, “firefighting” that for so many years has been woven into our manufacturing culture.

Because it drives corporate strategy projects that are aligned with and linked to business strategy and execution, OpEx also belongs in the boardroom as it propels a company’s self-awareness towards their true DNA. The result? Stronger, more profitable brands and undisputed word-class status. The collective power of such projects unites management with the workforce in a pragmatic and business-centric way that embraces transparency and all-inclusiveness—a dramatic shift from traditional business practices.

Nonetheless, unless Operational Excellence is formally organized and supported by the highest levels of the organization, it is not achievable, let alone sustainable. By wanting to be an OpEx organization, the mission is not to reinvent the wheel, or be accused that we are proponents of another management tool; the mission is far from it!

Training Is Essential
Since businesses are living and evolving organisms, not machines, comprised of people who must embrace the culture paradigm shifts without suspicion and mistrust, and together march towards the corporate morphing into learning and all-inclusive organizations, ongoing training is paramount. After all, a business is comprised of people who must keep on learning in order to grow their skillset and be better armed to flourish in this environment. An enabled workforce will themselves become change agents by stimulating, communicating and institutionalizing OpEx initiatives as part of the collective corporate transformation journey.

Developing the Perfect Deployment Strategy 
It will be a transition expedition when it all comes together and the organization shifts from being top down, to becoming a high performing, transparent entity where everyone is valued, feels valued, understands why they do what they do, and how it all ties to the corporate vision and shifting culture. A culture where everyone is a leader in their own way and a catalyst towards OpEx with one single voice: To exhilarate the customer!

Meet Our Expert

Anna Stefos
Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt

Anna Stefos has a diverse automotive background spanning 20 combined years at GM and FCA, ranging from international manufacturing, to product development, strategic planning, program management, corporate strategy and international operations. Anna’s experience in partnering with C-level executives provides a strong foundation for and advising small and medium-sized companies to achieve Enterprise Transformation and propel them towards Operational Excellence. To read her full bio, click here.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

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