Optimization and improvement are very different activities. Optimization is about playing within the known constraints as best one can. Improvement, on the other hand, is about breaking through these constraints to reach a much higher level of performance.
Getting off-track while solving a hard problem is to be expected. Getting back on track quickly is part of the art of great problem solving. Knowing how to spot when you’re going off track, and knowing what to do, can be the difference between rapid results and weeks, months, or years of frustration. Heed these four warning signs and you're more likely to right the ship before you veer too far off course.
In McKinsey’s recent article “Pushing manufacturing productivity to the max,” Robert Feldman et. al. suggests that the manufacturer’s dream should be a continuous, real-time data stream. He paints a picture of operators referencing data dashboards that flash alarms when a metric is out of spec, with “profit per hour” at the forefront of these metrics. If you asked McKinsey’s Feldman if there was ever a limit to how much data is helpful, it seems he would say no. But is there such a limit?
When organizations run into problems they don’t know how to solve - really tough problems - the first step is often to call in a subject matter expert. Subject matter experts, be it the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or a local resource, will lean on their experience to try and draw out a solution. If the problem falls outside of their abilities, they’ll often proclaim the problem impossible.
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