The ABCs of Structured Maintenance, a recent post to this blog, emphasized the importance of maintenance as a foundation for viable manufacturing operations. The following updated version of Cultivating Disciplined Operations, a post from October 2015, expands on the necessity for structure and discipline. — C.H.
Cultivating Disciplined Operations
In order for an organization to function effectively in a competitive world, a culture of disciplined operations is necessary. This does not mean the imposed discipline of a military boot camp. Rather, it means a voluntary coordination of efforts among all involved. As an ideal, consider a symphony orchestra, where a group of highly skilled musicians coordinate their personal talents to a mutually understood and desired end. Yes, a conductor does arrange the music and does direct the tempo. But it is the blended performances of the musicians that work the magic.
“Cultivating” is the right word here. A voluntary coordination of efforts comes about through a culture of mutual respect, directed toward a mutually desired end. It is that culture that needs to be cultivated. Here, “mutual respect” means a sincere regard for the interests and aspirations of everyone involved, diverse though those interests and aspirations may be. “Mutually desired end” refers to a condition in which everyone involved can prosper indefinitely.
An initial assessment of how closely a given organization’s culture approaches one of mutual respect, directed toward a mutually desired end is pretty easy. Employee turnover rates, absentee rates, equipment downtime rates and OSHA recordable safety incidents can readily be compared with relevant norms. Apply Pareto’s rule: if your organization isn’t comfortably in the top 20% for each of these, your competitive posture is at risk.  Even if your numbers are all in the top 20% — or even the top 1% — remember that everything and everyone can always improve. Including your competitors, today and tomorrow.
Here are some areas that require constant cultivation:
>> Safety: In manufacturing, a top notch safety program is essential. The benefits of a pain free working environment are immediately clear to everyone. Cultivation of safe operating practices is fundamental to the cultivation of mutual respect. 
>> Maintenance: Equipment and facilities need be designed for operability as well as for throughput. Poor working conditions and dysfunctional equipment are antithetical to the cultivation of mutual respect.
>> Training: It is not reasonable to ask anyone to participate in manufacturing operations absent a clear understanding of what that individual is to do and how to do it safely and effectively. My personal preference is that written work instructions be used as a basis for training materials. Trainers should be trained in how to train others. Understanding should be confirmed by demonstration.
>> ISO 9001: The ISO 9001 Standard for Quality Management Systems provides a systematic framework for disciplined operations. It is worth studying, even in part. Implementing systems compliant with the ISO 9001 Standard is a substantial undertaking. However, the cultivation of disciplined operations that occurs while doing so is a substantial reward for everyone and a substantial step toward an organization that can prosper indefinitely. 
Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated.
… Chuck Harrington (Chuck@JeraSustainableDevelopment.com)
This blog and associated website (www.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com) are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome.
 For more on Pareto and operating performance, see Operational Excellence – The Performance Curve, this blog, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2012/05/24/operational-excellence-the-performance-curve/
 For more on safety and its importance, see On Safety and Sustainability, this blog, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2013/10/24/on-safety-and-sustainability/
 For more on the ISO 9001 Standard and its application, see What’s Wrong With ISO?, this blog, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2012/07/05/whats-wrong-with-iso/ and Keeping Up With ISO, this blog, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2014/08/28/keeping-up-with-iso/