Recently I revisited some Gartner research on the stages of manufacturing maturity1. I first ran into this a few years ago. At the time, it made a lot of sense to me, but I got distracted by other projects.

In rediscovering it, I found myself mapping the stages of the manufacturing maturity journey to some of the case studies that we published recently.

Why use the Manufacturing Maturing Model?

I think you’ll find the Gartner Manufacturing Maturity Model helpful if you and your boss are asking questions like these:

  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • What shapes the direction we’re heading?
  • Are we just executing random projects, or is there a long-range trajectory?
  • And of course, what is the role of real-time data in achieving that strategy?

The graphic at the top of the page summarizes the journey on a classic two-by-two matrix. On the vertical axis, we’re plotting the maturity level. On the horizontal axis, we’re mapping the journey from an Inside-Out perspective to and Outside-In perspective. As an organization travels this journey they move from viewing the world from their perspective to viewing the world through their customer’s eyes. The implication, of course, is that mature organizations are those who really, really understand their customers.

Five Dimensions of Manufacturing Maturity

Gartner defines stages of maturity across five dimensions: Goal, Process, Organization, Performance Management, and Technology. According to the report, “The maturity of each of these dimensions determines an organization’s overall stage of maturity. We find manufacturers at different maturity levels for different dimensions. For example, a business unit or region, or a specific site, can be at Stage 4 for technology and Stage 2 for processes. As a result, the organization will be constrained in its ability to leverage the true potential of its technology investments.”

The report goes on to say that, “The five dimensions of manufacturing maturity are the foundations for developing a balanced, structured and phased roadmap to achieve higher levels of maturity. The roadmap can be used as a guide to mature and ultimately transform manufacturing and achieve the end objectives of the factory of the future, smart manufacturing and Industrie 4.0.”

Most Manufacturers in the First Three Stages

In my experience, most of our clients are somewhere in the first three stages: Reacting (Stand-Alone Manufacturing), Anticipating (Site Excellence), or Integrating (Integrated Manufacturing Network). We have numerous cases studies published on our site. I thought it might be interesting to look at a few of of them through the lens of the Manufacturing Maturity Framework.

Let’s look at two of the dimensions for Stage 1 and Stage 2 in more detail, and point to some excerpts from these case studies to illustrate how this looks in the real world.

The Process Dimension

The Process Dimension “Concerns activities included in how an organization pursues manufacturing excellence.”

At Stage 1, Stand-Alone Manufacturing, Gartner describes the process as characterized by: “Frequent changes to demand mix and unplanned events are met with ad hoc, undocumented processes that are reactively built using tacit knowledge to maintain service levels.” Another description is that “Processes are inconsistently documented and managed. This results in frequent downtime and disruptions that impact performance.”

Compare that to this excerpt from “Food Manufacturer Reduces Waste by Over 70% in Six Weeks”:

Production workers track product weights on the production line for frozen pizzas. These checks were recorded on paper, and the supervisor calculated average weight throughout the shift to maintain control of the product. At the end of each day, the data collection sheet was replaced and the completed form was collected for sign off and storage.

This manual process meant that line supervisors were only concerned with the current production run. If problems arose, managers spent hours and hours compiling hand-written data from pieces of paper before they could begin to make sense of what happened. Since the data was not in front of them, no one really knew the true impact on the business until it was too late to fix the issue.

Process reviews and approvals might be delayed for days. Management could not evaluate performance in a timely manner. Everyone had opinions about what should be improved to meet their growth goals, but no one had clear evidence.

The Organization Dimension

According to Gartner, the Organization Dimension is the “role and span of control of the manufacturing function and its relationship with other supply chain and corporate functions. It also describes the governance activities for different stakeholders to build, achieve and maintain manufacturing excellence.” For Stage One companies, Organization is characterized by “A culture of “heroics” is based on intuition, tacit and/or tribal knowledge contained within the minds of various operators and managers.”

Listen to how this is described in “Eliminating Paper Enables Improved Business Performance and Cultural Transformation”:

When we used a paper system, it was hard to keep up,” said Frey. This meant that at best the data was used for special situations – problems that were big enough to justify the effort to try and track down the data. When they had a problem, and they were fortunate enough to locate documents that contained pertinent information, trying to read the handwriting only added to the struggle.

For the most part, the company operated old data, or handwritten notes on white boards. “When we came together for a meeting we were always working with old data. The problems weren’t real anymore. Mostly we had opinions.” This situation is ripe for cynicism, conflict, and apathy.

To move to Stage 2, Site Excellence, Gartner says that a company develops “Stable, controlled and simplified processes across site functions are developed through expert-led lean and continuous improvement projects.” And at the Organization dimension, Stage 2 companies, “Self-directed work teams consisting of frontline operators and line managers share responsibility for implementing and sustaining performance improvements (e.g., defect reduction and increasing mean time between failure [MTBF]).”

Read how this was applied in “Multi-National Electronics Manufacturer Improves Quality Across Supply Chain”:

This data visibility increased at every level. Operators could check on their current production. Plant managers could see how their individual plant was doing that day. And corporate quality managers could get a bigger picture across value streams. And from that high level, they could drill down to the operator level within a few clicks. “Our executives could not believe you could drill all the way down to the employee who found the defect in a matter of seconds.

With full visibility into trusted information across plants, it is now possible to put continuous improvement methods in place that optimize the entire supply chain, increasing supply chain flexibility. The corporate quality manager can take pride in the improvement of quality, in the analytics, as well as in the associated decrease in client reported defects.

The Gartner Stages of Manufacturing Maturity provide a rich conceptual framework for understanding where your organization is today, and prioritizing a proactive trajectory for continuous improvement.

Take another look at our case study collection. Then if you’d like to discuss how Hertzler can help you on your journey to manufacturing maturity please contact me at 800-958-2709, or at LinkedIn or Twitter.

1Gartner, Understanding the Five Stages of Gartner’s Maturity Model for Manufacturing Excellence, Simon F Jacobson, 26 August 2016.