MRO Magazine

Boost supply chains with communication


December 18, 2009
By PEM Magazine

For many years, people thought communication silos only existed in very large corporations. These silos are rampant today, however, in companies as small as three people. Clearly, there’s a lack of collaboration and an epidemic of individualism mediocrity. This seemingly unimportant word, "communication" can be the detriment to your project, supply chain budget, goals and company. Communication is vital to increasing productivity, efficiency and to also keep those A-type players that are so rare.

Let’s look at a few examples. XYZ company operations manager is getting a new packaging machine, which will increase capacity and throughput. Only worrying about throughput and his department’s profit/loss statement, the operations manager moves forward with the approved project and plans a fourth-quarter install. The problem, however, was that he neglected to ask (until D-Day) the engineering team about its schedule.

The engineering team had one person who was on sick leave; two other people were scheduled for their yearly maintenance overview projects with no extra available time. The project was delayed and eventually went in, but this upset the engineering team. Once installed, the machine did as promised and increased throughput. The transportation team, however, further wasn’t consulted. As a result, these folks were unable to quickly accommodate the increased input, which caused a bottleneck.

Many times, the ego gets in the way and affects communication. Recently, there was another project where an information technology (IT) department was purchasing some new production software for a company. The plant floor manager didn’t know about the project and had not been consulted. Yes, it looked like an accident was ready to happen.


The fact remains, everyone in the company impacted the bottom line. The IT person didn’t go the next step to realize that his bonus is paid on company profits. If he spends money or buys the wrong tools and they don’t work efficiently: that will affect the bottom line and ultimately his bonus. Because of his ego, however, he determined what was best for the plant floor and what tools operators needed. Don’t let your ego get in the way of collaborating with all departments, while maximizing the efficiency of your company.

Also, don’t forget the new people or young intern in the workplace. It’s all too common for individuals to work in the same area for a length of time and develop "tunnel vision." People new to the job (i.e. warehouse or distribution centre), however, may not know all the processes, rules or history. This will give them a fresh and "out-of-the-box" thinking outlook. It’s communication of this sort that you will find enlightening.

Think of yourself as someone who sifts out the good and bad information, but is always being open to new ideas, concepts and sharing those ideas and concepts with others in the organization. If a salesperson comes in with a new transportation module that will save the company major dollars, don’t simply say, "Sorry, but I just do warehousing, goodbye."

Communicate with your transportation manager about the idea and broker the introduction. This individual and responsible approach will add dollars to the bottom line, which eventually comes back to the benefit of all. Even if your company doesn’t have a profit/loss bonus plan, it will be more profitable. As a result, the organization is able to prosper in this challenging economy.

Communication is a good way to measure the success of your company. Organizations that communicate with their employees, executives that collaborate, as well as managers that communicate and support each other regularly, are usually the most successful.

With your family, children and also on the job-communication in life is imperative. Manufacturing, rarely talks to distribution. Warehousing rarely talks to transportation. Marketing rarely talks to sales. Engineering rarely talks to executives. So, which people aren’t communicating in your company, and how can you improve the bottom line by simply getting everyone talking?

Susan Rider is president of Upton, KY-based Rider and Associates. You can reach her by email: