So what do fire hydrants and Real Time SPC Software have in common?
I suppose you could make the case that Real Time SPC Software helps you prevent or put out those urgent problems that crop up in every organization. We often refer to those urgent problems as fires, and the language of fire fighting is common in middle management circles. But the analogy falls apart pretty quickly when you’re talking about Real Time SPC Software. While it’s true that real time SPC software can help you put out those fires, it’s primary benefit is helping you prevent problems in the first place.
Recently I sat down with a client to talk about how deploying GainSeeker Real Time SPC Software has benefited his company. He described that fire fighting mode to a tee when he said, “It was chaotic. Everybody was working like maniacs. They were all super busy… When I talk about chaos, the business was not at risk. It wasn’t the kind of thing where you go to work every day wondering if the door is going to be locked. When you come to work, the question is, ‘Okay, what will be today’s emergency?’”
Joseph Benford (everyone calls him “Buddy”) is the Corporate Quality Manager for Mueller Co. Mueller is a 160 year-old manufacturing company that started in central Illinois. They manufacture water distribution products, including fire hydrants and a variety of valves and gates, with a number of facilities across North America.
Decades-long History with Real Time SPC Software
This was not my first conversation with Buddy. Actually our relationship goes back over 20 years when he worked for another company in Central Indiana that had deployed the fore-runner of GainSeeker Suite (QA/S) in the late 1980s. He had tremendous success with that product, before making a couple of career moves that took him to a couple other companies.
A few years ago, Buddy called me and said, “Remember me? Well I’ve landed at this company in Decatur, Illinois and I have an opportunity to really make a difference. I’m very excited.”
Buddy went on to explain the situation. His perspective made sense to me then, and has held true as I’ve watched this story unfold in the months since that call.
Mueller was doing well: their products were good, they enjoyed a really good relationship with their customers, and they were making money. But new leadership believed they could do better.
Good people who didn’t know what they didn’t know
What Buddy saw, and what got him excited, was a good group of people who, with the best of intentions, didn’t know what they didn’t know. Buddy believed that if he could provide them with problem-solving skills, knowledge, and supporting tools, they could perform at a new level. Buddy was very clear in that first conversation that this was not a quick fix. He knew it would take persistence and the long view to see that these changes took root.
Now, a few years later, I finally get to tell his story. I’ve been watching this story unfold with all the ups and downs that are inevitable in this kind of transformation. And I’m very excited to share it.
I say his story, and Buddy will be quick to tell you that it his team’s story. I will be the last to take anything away from that assertion. His team has done wonders; this isn’t just Buddy’s success. At the same time, Buddy deserves kudos for being the leader that pulled them all together. This story wouldn’t have happened if not for his vision and constancy of purpose.
One Story, Three Angles
What I found was that this isn’t just one story. It is too much to tell in the few hundred words we normally allow for a case study. So I broke it into three stories.
The first, Mueller Company Pivots to Data-Driven Culture, is the core story. It explains why Mueller set out to make a change, and describes the role GainSeeker real-time SPC software played in improving the organization’s financial performance.
The second, Setting the Context for Cultural Change, provides great insight into Mueller’s transformation. I think most people underestimate the effort required to change culture. They seem to believe that you can somehow mandate it: set the goals, provide the tools, and magic happens. Buddy has been around the block a few times, and he knew that wasn’t the case. This story describes how he set the context for change so that it could take root and grow.
The third, GainSeeker is the Platform for Mueller’s Quality Journey, dives more deeply into GainSeeker’s role in the process. GainSeeker provided an important platform for building this. It explains why Mueller set out to make a change, and describes the role GainSeeker real-time SPC software played in improving the organization’s financial performance.
Take a look at all three of these stories, and then contact us to discuss your journey towards Manufacturing Excellence.