When looking to improve your Engineering Team and by extension the overall company, it is important to know where to start.
In the more extreme cases of product recalls and relaunches the issues can be plain as day, giving you a clear and present start point. However, if you are committed to continuous improvement and not actively ‘fire-fighting’ that initial jumping-off point can be elusive.
Observing her team in their Californian Headquarters. D’Arcy Sloane President of Mee- Fog described having a ‘gut feeling’ the company could be better, but not knowing exactly how.
On receipt of an email from Will Beer, MD Tunley Engineering offering their assessments services, D’Arcy and Thomas Mee (MeeFog) were initially apprehensive; while they could see the value in an outside perspective, they didn’t want a ‘stuffy consultant who dragged things out and racked up costs’. After an introductory call they decided to undergo an Engineering Assessment.
Engineering Assessments are the first step in nearly all Tunley Engineering customer interactions, MeeFog’s goal was to either confirm or deny D’Arcy and Thomas’ suspicions about the performance of their business and offer remedies for any issues found.
In this case it was 6 days of investigation into the Engineering Team and the wider company; from culture to lead times, 1-1 private interviews with team members, reviews of processes and KPIs, and interactions between departments, no stone was left unturned.
Assessments always end in a presentation of recommendations, a company can (if they choose to) action these themselves. The presentation was delivered to the President and CEO first and then to the wider organization.
As mentioned before, an assessment aims to give a list of recommendations that a customer can action themselves, Tunley Engineering’s contribution can only be ‘to move it from to-do, to done more quickly’ in the words of Will Beer. MeeFog opted to enlist Tunley Engineering for a further 3 days to action these recommendations.
Will started by working with the engineering team to create a process that would define the complexity of each order. This was done to help the team to make better choices in terms of prioritization.
All processes need review so they can be refined as circumstances change, new processes in particular benefit from this.
Another critical task in these 3 short days was to begin to track how long certain parts of the process took, achieved by measuring the process itself not just the people involved. MeeFog were able to start improving lead times in a targeted, time- efficient way. This way of tracking the status of an order was integrated with MeeFog’s existing ERP, NetSuite.
With the sales checklist assisting in the definition of an order’s complexity and by extension its priority, a KPI measuring how long an order sat in each part of the process and all of this being tracked on their ERP, the only task left was to overhaul kick-off meetings.
Create a better order approval process and workflow
Introduce KPIs to measure the effectiveness of each process step
Create a sales checklist
Overhaul of project kick-off meetings
When addressing this issue, Will always begins by looking at the culture of a team, accountability and preparation are fundamental to making meetings effective. All meetings should have an agenda that reflects the businesses processes and known by all attendees to support productivity.
While we are working remotely, on time, in reality, means 5 mins early so we can validate the technology and sort any issues. We should be prepared to make the point by cancelling the meeting should somebody be late. Experience has proven that holding people accountable has wide-reaching, positive ramifications to the culture of the Engineering Team.
In conclusion, in just 9 days MeeFog has implemented a series of changes that has transformed the entire organization’s culture, processes and lead times for the better.
When should we have them?
How long do they need to run for?
Why do they always overrun?
“We hired Tunley to help debug our engineering processes and to improve delivery time for our custom-engineered systems. William Beer took the time to do a thorough survey of our existing engineering activities and was able to quickly understand the nature of our processes.
He recommended changes that were easy to implement and which gave us immediate positive results. Implementing his recommendations not only improved our engineering processes, they also improved the overall morale of the entire company.
People feel like they know what is expected of them, individually and as a team, and they are eager to get it done. William is intelligent, personable, has a deep understanding of engineering processes, and a no-nonsense approach to getting things done. It was a pleasure working with him.”
– Thomas Mee, CEO, Mee Industries Inc.