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The Solid Benefits of Software

This may surprise some people but, believe it or not, the number one reason upper-level managers are fired in the United States is software implementation. I always tell people involved in the business to watch out for "the spender,” the person that comes in and says they can solve all the problems if they just make the project bigger and spend more money. Well, we like to say use the W.I.N. principle — what’s important now. Focus on what is the absolute most important thing now, doing so while considering both short- and long-term goals. Try to streamline those into one consistent and coherent plan. At Starro Precision Products, Elgin, IL, by adding and implementing the right software programs at the right time, we were able to achieve both immediate and long-range benefits. Understanding and using the software as a tool allowed us to transform the company from the ground up, improving communication, completely altering our customer base, drastically improving our efficiency and identifying areas where we could benefit the customer. In a word, we transformed to a totally customer focused process-improvement plan.


Flying in a Fresh Approach

Our company has been around since 1952; the president, Bruce Stark, hired me 12 years ago to really evaluate the company and take it on a road to change. Market-share was slipping, actually changing, as a result of evolutionary changes in customer requirements. Quality was getting more stringent, certified plans were required; you had targets for excellence — Ford Q1, military programs, etc. I was brought on board after working for nearly 10 years in aerospace-related manufacturing to evaluate the company and put us on a different path. The first phase was self-evaluation. We looked at our shop and analyzed everything. About 10 years ago, we started to benchmark against other companies and industries, asking: "What do we bring to the table? Where do we stand as far as companies out there?”

Companies often conduct internal reviews, and in this industry, shops may look at themselves to see the things they’re doing right. What’s important isn’t patting yourself on the back, but seeing what’s being done wrong — and understanding the best ways to correct those areas. You must really look from the outside in, taking measurements from multiple perspectives. We benchmarked and used data from a wide variety of industries to better understand how they focused on their customers and maintained market leadership.

Many companies have great team members and as such, they have a winning spirit. An effective analogy might be of world-class athletes or Olympiads, a great accomplishment and something to be proud of if you’re a world-class U.S. sprinter. But if in reality your company is perceived as the Jamaican bobsled team, although being an Olympian is a great source of pride, you probably aren’t going to go too far. And that’s the problem in our industry, as I see it. Screw machining, as an industry and as a concept, is rooted in 100-year-old technology. Unfortunately, if you don’t change, you’re going to be left behind.
People in the company performed an evaluation and said, "We’re as good as, if not better than, most of our competition.” I evaluated that statement, though, and said, "Well, that’s no great thing. A lot of the competition isn’t that good; in fact, we are competing for smaller and smaller markets against smaller and smaller companies with a diminishing market share. So we’ve got to radically change. We’ve got to bring things about that are going to change the company.”

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