If It Ain't Broke...Fix It Anyway

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it. " Unfortunately, this cliche may not work in today's highly competitive environment.

Columns From: 4/1/1999 Modern Machine Shop,

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Unfortunately, this cliche may not work in today's highly competitive environment. Companies must look at ways to improve their operations on a continual basis, just to stay even. These improvements require change that is not always easy to accomplish.

What motivates a company to change? We see many companies that are truly on the cutting edge. These companies introduce new products and even find ways to create markets for these products. Some companies pride themselves on developing new manufacturing processes that no one else has even considered. What makes the process of change so natural to these companies?

Some motivators for change are obvious and generally are a result of disruptions to the status quo. Here are some examples.

Someone leaves the company. This creates a gap of knowledge or work performance. The person leaving was doing something and presumably this was important to the success of the company. Now that the person is leaving, the work has to be done by someone else, or perhaps something different has to be done.

There is a loss of business. Perhaps a key customer has defected, or a competitor has developed a new product that is simply better, faster, or cheaper.

There is sudden sales growth. With an increase in business, you may not have the resources to keep up. You scramble to increase capacity internally or find a partner to handle some of the extra volume.

You begin to hear complaints from your customers. You are told that your products are just not as good as they used to be, or you never have the products your customers want when they need them. You become concerned and search for the cause of the problem, so you can take appropriate action.

There is a lack of part or product availability. Perhaps you can no longer obtain a key part or material that is critical to your product. You have to do something in order to continue offering your products or services.

You experience an emergency breakdown of some type—Perhaps a key machine stops running, forcing you to find other ways to get parts made.

Key customers increase their demands. What was once acceptable to your customer, whether it is price, quality, or service, no longer is acceptable. Again, faced with a crisis, you scramble to handle the sudden dilemma, or face the possibility of losing this customer.

You can summarize the above motivators as major life event changes. They are easy to recognize and typically force companies into a mode of change. Although not "life or death" situations, the above events are certainly serious and need to be addressed.

There are other motivators for change that are more subtle, but are opportunities nonetheless. These include the following:

You visit a company and see what others do. Immediately you think that you can do that also and begin to formulate a process of change. You are motivated by the success of others.

You attend a training program, conference, or trade show and in the same way, you get an idea there is a better way of doing things. You determine that the only way of incorporating these improvements is to change.

You read a trade journal and become interested in a new technology, or process, that could help your business. You spend time evaluating the benefits of the technology, then think about ways to implement it in your operation. You plan the changes that must take place.

You speak to someone, perhaps a consultant, who convinces you there just may be a better way (the "maybe I am not doing things as well as I could be" effect). You resolve to consider alternatives to how you are presently operating.

You simply recognize that change is necessary and will improve your business. No doubt about it, you not only think change will help, but you know it is necessary to survive. You set out to change and embrace it.

Clinging to the old ways of doing business will not work. Once you believe that change is good and necessary, you will be motivated to fix things, even if they "ain't broke." You must learn to accept change as a natural occurrence, an evolution in your business.

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