Geko Operative

Perfection is not about always succeeding; it is about being aware of your failures and successes, weaknesses and strengths and about you neutralising the former and growing the latter


Operational Excellence

Since my university days I've been enamored with the ideal of operational excellence, what it is, how to attain it and how it evolves over time. After years of trial and error I believe I have painstakingly edged myself towards this ideal though not as quick or as clearly as I would have otherwise liked.

Looking back over my previous posts on the subject of operational excellence I have picked up that these posts focused on point improvements without much binding them together. I've since decided to change tact and to first focus on the foundations of operational excellence. I hope that I will therefore draw an operational excellence road map that I can use for practical use at work, independent to product model or even industry.

Essentially I have come to realise that without a solid foundation and an overarching plan then, no matter how good your idea is or how well it starts, it will fail with the passage of time. Bearing that in mind I believe the road map to operational excellence is as follows:


Discipline is not a prerequisite for starting an initiative but without it nothing can be finished. If you don't have discipline then you might as well as save your energy and don't do anything.

Understanding Change

If you are on the path to operational excellence chances are you are not content with the current state. Change management  is a subject in itself but without a detailed understanding on how to go about making changes many errors will be made on the way sapping a lot of critical energy, not only from yourself but for your team. I contend, therefore, that understanding how to change is a prerequisite to deciding what to change. Change models identified include:

  • Eight Stage Process by J.P.Kotter
  • Good to Great framework by J Collins

Deciding on What Change

What operational excellence is or should be has had many guises over time but I believe that the following framework and ideas is a good start.

  • Shingo' Model for Excellence
  • Teachings of Taiichi Ohno


We talked about discipline needed to carry out change, how to make changes and a possible future state to change into but so far it has all been a theoretical study. Now its time to call the shots and make the plays.

It is important to know that what is implemented will depend on your industry. Making custom jewellery has different operational constraints compared to making 16 wheeler trucks and hence implementation of operational excellence will take a different hue. Naturally I will focus on my own industry which is low volume high mix though I will try and be as open minded as possible.

Essentially the road map will be as follows:

  1. Reduce customer complaints
  2. Improve in process quality
  3. Decide KPI and how to measure
  4. Visualise good/bad conditions
  5. Establish standardised work
  6. Implement FIFO production (for low volume high mix)
  7. Minimise missing parts
  8. Balance production as far as possible
  9. Improve effectiveness of bottlenecks
  10. Develop and implement training plan
  11. Develop and implement suggestion generation plan
  12. Reduce non-value adding processes
  13. Make value adding processes more effective

That said, however, as with any roadmap it would be prudent to expect it to change over time as we are waylaided by pitfalls and bandits on the way.

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