Friday, July 27, 2018

The Power of Policy Deployment for Your Business

By: Miguel Gomez

What is the vision that drives your company? Why do you operate each day? What do you hope to achieve? Do your employees have the same goals? Many organizations find that their larger company visions can be forgotten in day-to-day firefighting. This is detrimental to success as workers at every level are left unaware of what they should be doing or how their work contributes to larger business goals. How can your company make sure your corporate vision is clearly understood and followed throughout the entire organization? The answer lies in policy deployment.

A description of what an organization would like to achieve in the short or long-term is often referred to as the vision. This serves as a clear guide for deciding current and future courses of action. Most companies establish the vision as the starting point for all strategic planning, risk identification and tactical deployment to ensure that major initiatives align with larger goals.

In order to successfully establish and achieve a vision, companies must create an organizational structure capable of turning a vision into action through policy deployment. With effective policy deployment in place, the vision is used to inform goals and initiatives at all levels of the organization. The company vision drives the business plan, and high-level strategic plans are converted into tactical actions or projects, which organize everyone in the organization to pull in the same direction.

Various methods have been developed to ensure that the strategic goals of a company drive progress and actions throughout the organization. One of these methods is Hoshin Kanri.  Hoshin, a Japanese term meaning “self-protection,” and Kanri, meaning “management,” together translate to “policy deployment.” This method of policy deployment requires a strong strategic vision to succeed. This is accomplished by keeping strategies, organizational capabilities, resources and management systems arranged in a manner that support the company’s goals through a vision understood and lived by the entire organization. The main objective of this method is to get every individual in the organization to become aligned with the vision and achieve set strategic goals by following steps outlined in the tactical plan (see figure below).

How can this realistically be achieved at your company? Follow these three steps:
  1. Create a strategic plan. As seen in the figure above, policy deployment starts at the top. Management is in charge of setting a company vision and strategic plan that focus on a few critical issues that need company-wide support and alignment. An important component of this step is to identify and track relevant metrics to monitor progress of goals. Otherwise, goals are meaningless.
  2. Develop tactics. With the vision and strategic plan established, they must then be transformed into tactical actions to outline how goals will actively be achieved. This will identify specific tasks to be accomplished at each level of the organization, effectively establishing how all departments and workers will contribute to achieving the company vision. 
  3. Check and balance. Regular reviews of the plan and its success are critical to ensure ongoing, company-wide support. Constantly monitor progress throughout your organization to identify areas of misalignment and keep employees on track with realizing the company vision.
What Does a Cascading Vision Look Like in Practice?
A solid vision statement acts as a guide for employee actions and decision-making in all departments. For example, if your organization is working towards achieving higher customer satisfaction, this goal will cascade to every level of the organization. The quality department might then focus on decreasing defects and maintaining more quality products, while those in distribution work to ensure all products are delivered on time, with each serving the larger company goal of improving customer satisfaction.

In terms of daily performance, if a worker is deciding which project to undertake next, or how to best perform a task, they should ask themselves, “Am I being consistent with the organization’s vision statement?” If the answer is no, now is the time to pause, evaluate and, if need be, align the action or decision with the vision statement. The vision provides the guidance employees need to make the right decisions, regardless of department or project type.

Find Success with Your Policy Deployment
Achieving this company-wide alignment is not always easy, however. Many factors can hold a company back from realizing their vision, including:
  • Top management is not aware of misalignment among its workforce
  • Nobody in the organization has ownership of the responsibility for alignment
  • Organizational model is too complex for alignment
Successful organizations learn to identify and mitigate the negative forces being exerted on their alignment efforts. For example, a flattened management structure is beneficial to Hoshin Kanri. The fewer levels there are the easier it is to cascade goals down, and the fewer opportunities there are for strategy to be muddled through successive layers of translation. Fewer layers also means faster decision-making.

People perform best when they have a purpose; when they understand not just what to do, but why it’s important. One of the advantages of Hoshin Kanri is that it can help to create that purpose, providing focus and drive towards specific, company-wide goals.

Your business will benefit from you putting the effort into creating a shared vision, strategic plan and associated tactics. By keeping employees aware of their role in achieving the company vision, they will gain a deeper understanding of why their work is important and how their tasks support larger company goals. With these elements in place, your company will be on the right path to realizing its vision.

To learn more about how to keep your business on track for success, come to The Center's upcoming free Explore event where I will discuss how to apply "core tools," such as APQP, PPAP, FMEA, MSA & SPC, to your organization to support your continuous improvement initiatives.

Miguel Gomez
Quality Program Manager

Miguel is a Quality Program Manager at The Center. In his role, Miguel manages and delivers training and implementation assistance for Quality and Environmental Management Systems. Miguel comes from a strong technical background in Quality operations management, utilizing his experience in the industry to assist companies with implementing management systems including ISO 9001:2015, IATF 16949, ISO 14001 and Core Tools.

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

Friday, July 20, 2018

LEAN: Learn, Educate And Network

By: Betsy Williams

At Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) in Traverse City, the tradition of sharing and learning from others on a lean journey launched the Northern Michigan Lean Learning Consortium (LLC) 10 years ago. Two years later, the Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC) was founded by a group of nine forward-thinking individuals who firmly believed that if every Michigan organization used lean principles, the state's economy would rebound. Richard Wolin, director of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center’s Northern Lower office, was a part of the group that spearheaded the formation of this organization for lean learners, with members’ skills stretching from novice to advanced. To date, there are more than 1,100 members statewide.

Each year, MLC hosts a conference that brings together individuals from across Michigan and all areas of industry to learn and network. Our 8th Annual Conference will be held in Traverse City on August 8-9, 2018. A number of improvements have been made to this year’s event, with a significant change being a new registration website that eases the process of selecting breakout sessions and staying up-to-date on all aspects of the conference.

Several keynote speakers will present exclusive insights on the latest lean applications at this conference. One of this year’s keynote speakers is Karyn Ross, co-author of Toyota Way to Service Excellence: Lean Transformation in Service Organizations. She will share how to gain value, get results and grow your business. Whether you are an executive, manager, consultant or frontline worker who deals with customers every day, you'll learn how take advantage of all lean has to offer.

Being a leader in a lean organization requires a special skillset. To address this, we have developed a leadership track series that encompasses a nine-month learning opportunity. This series will involve pre-work and assessments, and participants will be paired with a lean mentor for six months. More information about this offering will be shared at the conference, where lean industry leaders will deliver a designated break out session track for this series.

Networking, learning from others and entertaining are key emphases of our conference. This year, we will have a kick-off welcome session on Tuesday evening, August 7, at Traverse City’s Right Brain Brewery, which just started its own lean journey last fall. There will be no special registration for this event, as we encourage all conference attendees to come and enjoy.

Please register now and join us to see what else this conference has to offer. And – for those who attended last year – “Yes, there will be bacon!”

If you have questions about this event, or would like to volunteer, please contact me at

Betsy Williams
Business Development and Training Specialist
Northwestern Michigan College,The Center- Northern Lower

As Business Development and Training Specialist at NMC, Betsy has more than 30 years of experience in operational development and management. In the past, Betsy worked as a travel executive and consultant, gaining experience in customer service and providing creative solutions to customers. Betsy currently serves on the Michigan Lean Consortium Board of Directors and Event Committee, and is a Certified Lean Champion. Her work is fueled by her passion for lean and helping clients achieve real results.

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Facing the Talent Shortage Head-On with Apprenticeships

By: Elliot Forsyth

Having skilled, competent employees is key to an organization’s success. This is no longer easy for manufacturers to come by, however, as a massive talent shortage has emerged in the industry in recent years, leaving many jobs unfilled and tasks undone. It is expected that this talent gap will result in millions of positions remaining vacant in the years to come, a number that will only continue to grow if nothing is done to counteract this trend.

To provide solutions, we must first understand the roots of the problem. Many issues and challenges have combined to create the perfect storm for manufacturing jobs, including:
  1. Silver Tsunami. The large number of baby boomers retiring each year, also referred to as the “silver tsunami,” has been anticipated for years, yet it is still a main contributing factor to the talent shortage. These experienced workers continue to leave the workforce at an increasing rate, taking their skills with them and leaving behind vacancies that cannot be filled easily. Decades of experience in manufacturing cannot be taught to new workers overnight, making it nearly impossible to sufficiently fill the voids these workers leave behind.
  2. Industry 4.0. As new and interconnected technologies, commonly known as Industry 4.0, continue to grow in the manufacturing world, more and more manufacturers are having difficulty keeping up with the latest trends. In addition to trying to understand the vast amount of innovations currently on the market, manufacturers face the added challenge of finding talent with the skills and education necessary to operate such technologies. Industry 4.0 calls for a new kind of worker, with more advanced and more specific skills than previously needed for a career in manufacturing, adding to the gap in talent needed and talent available.
  3. Education and training. The issue of insufficient training and education has contributed largely to the skills gap facing manufacturers. From lack of interest in STEM career paths to lack of awareness about career opportunities available to lack of proper training for those interested in pursuing a manufacturing career, it can be difficult to prepare the students of today for the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow. 
At this point you may be asking yourself, “How can we close the skills gap?” I recently published a blog offering one answer to this problem: education reform. There I explained how Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), along with the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS), are working to gather insights and recommend changes or additions to college courses to better target the skills gap and prepare workers for current manufacturing job requirements.

Another solution is apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships are one of the most effective, proven ways to directly train and retain workers while shrinking the talent shortage. As most processes in manufacturing involve detailed protocols and a deep understanding of equipment, it is crucial that all workers have comprehensive training in order to be successful. Placing students directly on the factory floor with experienced employees providing guidance can eliminate challenges associated with poor training. Implementing on-the-job training for students not only provides them with valuable hands-on learning experiences, but connects manufacturers with future workers.

Additionally, apprenticeships provide manufacturers with a way to invest in the future of their company and their employees, giving them a solid foundation and room to grow within their organization. Investing time and effort in training and developing staff through apprenticeships can boost your company’s desirability, helping workers to envision future growth and career opportunities in your company. This can support employee retention efforts, as well as attract outside workers seeking to grow their skills. Ultimately your organization can become a company of choice that is recognized for its commitment to developing the next generation of manufacturers.

Want to start your own apprenticeship program? Come to a free info session hosted by Automation Alley and The Center to learn more about how to implement a registered apprenticeship program in your facility. Held from 9:30 am to 11:30 am on Tuesday, July 24 in Plymouth, speakers at this event will answer the following questions:
  • What is a registered apprenticeship program?
  • Why should my company consider implementing this training model?
  • What resources are available to get started?
Methods such as apprenticeships and education reform are two proven ways to combat the talent shortage. Although it will take years of combined efforts from the government, schools and manufacturers to successfully address this skills gap, steps such as these can go a long way in raising the next generation of manufacturers.

Elliot Forsyth
Vice President of Business Operations

Elliot is Vice President of Business Operations at The Center, where he is responsible for leading practice areas that include cybersecurity, technology acceleration, marketing, market research and business development. Over the past two years, Elliot has led The Center's effort to develop a state-of-the-art cybersecurity service for companies in the defense, aerospace and automotive industries, supporting Michigan companies in safeguarding their businesses and maintaining regulatory compliance.

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