People Innovation Excellence

Squeezing all the juice from the orange

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INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER – VOLUME 47, NUMBER 5
BY KHALED MABROUK

Khaled Mabrouk is a process improvement leader for Sustainable Productivity Solutions based in Santa Cruz, California who graduated in Purdue University and is a member of IIE. He once had a boss who detested people who came in and asked for more money before they worked on getting the most out of their existing resources and processes. The managers attempted to solve the problems by spending money on buying more resources instead of taking the time to find out how to fix their existing problems. It is the instinct of leaders though. They think by buying new equipment, hiring more people, or building a new facility is enough to solve the problem. This is often triggered by fast-growing companies that believe they don’t have enough time, and in the worse case, this behavior continues after the growth phase slows down, during times when they can afford to waste money.

People further support this thinking by believing this is the best solution. But in reality, actually they don’t have the discipline to follow a structured problem-solving approach. By buying our way out of trouble, we are burying the problem so we don’t have to deal with it today. And what’s wasteful is by buying our way out of trouble, we bought more of the same problem we already have. In other words, our current processes don’t work well, and we add more processes which also don’t work well. This problem can be a big issue in the future.

We should work to improve our existing processes until we are sure that we are getting the most out of it, like squeezing all the juice from the orange. In order to do this, we must understand the problem right from the root cause. Then we can follow a structured problem-solving approach to generate a sustainable solution to the operational woes. This way we can come up with solutions that permanently solve the issue, once and for all. And most of the time, improving the process is significantly less expensive than buying more resources, hiring more people or building a new facility.


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