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Process Improvement Means More with a Story


Supply Chain Storyteller - Process Improvement Means More with a Story

Process engineering sounds boring to many people. It conjures images of flow charts, stopwatches, and other activities that seem geeky on the surface. Those images don’t capture the moments like when senior management asks you to deliver tangible business benefits on a short timeline, with minimal support staff and a budget small enough to avoid requiring executive approval.


That’s what happened with my first professional project. I was responsible for a manufacturing line with a known problem of grinding to a halt during the initial parts gathering for high-complexity products. The demand for these products wasn’t significant enough to warrant a full-time solution. Still, the high margins meant they needed to be a priority when orders arrived.


Piecing the solution together became a creative exercise. We identified the floor space, lined up contractors, and secured refurbished materials to keep costs down. The most complicated part ended up being securing the buy-in of plant operators and supervisors, as they had more questions than I had answers.


I set out to help the stakeholders understand the project's goals and objectives and their role in achieving them. Transparency was crucial for fostering trust and building solid relationships, so I kept an ongoing dialogue with everyone. Regular meetings, status updates, and feedback sessions ensured everyone was on the same page and working towards the same goal.


Ultimately, the thing that kept this small, ad-hoc project top of mind and on track was its name and story. Since the new kitting line was the smaller, less formal version of the existing one, we named it Junior. From then on, everyone had a soft spot for the younger sibling and wanted to help.


The project met all the desired outcomes, but the line was meant to be a short-term solution and was taken out of service only a short time after. That said, the project's notoriety eventually earned it an award at the engineering department all-hands meeting.


The power of storytelling is evident in the extent to which everyone knew Junior’s name and story. We kept it light, fun, and a little gritty to bring some life to one of those off-the-cuff leadership asks that too often become a burden.


About the Author

Patrick Van Hull

Chief Storyteller at Supply Chain Storyteller


Let’s chat when you’re ready to start learning together. Book a call with me

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