"Better, Faster, Cheaper" summarizes the needs of today's customers. Customers simply want products that perform better than they used to, are delivered faster than ever, and cost less to purchase.
How do companies supply parts that are better, faster and cheaper? Well, it certainly does not happen overnight. Companies must realize that this is a formula for survival, commit to making it work in their organizations, and develop a plan for making it happen. Here are some ways to adopt the "Better, Faster, Cheaper" philosophy.
Let's start with "Better." Here are a few thoughts on what makes something "Better":
- Higher quality—the product exceeds current expectations
- More features and options
- More applications
- Easier to use
- Newer, more advanced materials of construction
- Longer life
- Does what the competition cannot
Once we understand just what "Better" is, we can take action to meet this need. One approach is a strong quality management effort, with clearly understood procedures to assure part-to-part consistency. A good system of quality management seeks to eliminate anything that can lead to a deviation in part consistency. To achieve a good quality management system, we must be willing to invest in training our workforce. Training in the hard skills, such as machining, reading measuring instruments, and machine setup is not enough. There must also be training in the soft skills of problem solving, communication, satisfying customers, organization and housekeeping. Once employees are trained in these concepts, they are better equipped to recognize potential problems and prevent them before they happen. Training will also equip the workforce with tools to continuously improve the process, ultimately leading to better products.
Another approach to making products "Better" is to adopt a concurrent engineering philosophy in the product design stage. Concurrent engineering calls for teams of people to provide input into designs, while they are still "on paper" instead of in production.
Next, let's look at "Faster." Quite simply, "Faster" means less time from order acceptance to delivery to the customer. This is really the only definition of "Faster" that a customer understands. Customers want to know how a supplier can reduce a two-week delivery cycle to two days.
There are many ways to provide parts "Faster." Technologies such as e-mail or electronic data interchange (EDI) give you an advantage as you can start the order fulfillment process sooner. Once orders can be transmitted electronically, the next step is to transmit CAD files electronically so they can be input directly into your manufacturing system. Other technologies, such as highly flexible CNC machines, with the ability to complete multiple operations in one setup, and high speed tooling, which can reduce machine cycle time, can shorten overall delivery times.
Unfortunately, modern manufacturing technologies alone may not get parts to a customer faster. Procedures are needed for planning and organizing production in a manner most suitable to customer needs. Procedural improvements, such as setup time reduction techniques, lead to reduced downtime between jobs. Implementing as many make-to-order schedules as possible will also contribute to reducing the cycle times, as it is only necessary to manufacture what is needed instead of producing for inventory.
Finally, let's look at "Cheaper." Cheaper products will result when a company takes steps to produce products better and faster. Cheaper products are those that are
- made right the first time.
- redesigned to reduce the number of parts or simplify the manufacturing process.
- improved by teams of employees, customers and suppliers who are involved in the design process early enough to
- make valuable cost saving suggestions.
- entered into your schedule as soon as possible and made only when they are needed.
- produced with the right equipment and without the non-value-added operations that increase costs and cause delays.
"Better, Faster, Cheaper" is a continuous improvement concept that is important to long-term success for manufacturers.