NZIM: Productivity – Politically Free MMP – Management, marketing and productivity (MMP)

We have to do something about our marketing to increase sales and market share.” It is constant theme that runs through our interviews with potential manufacturing clients. Fair comment, you might say. But is it?
Increasing sales and market share needs more than creative marketing approach and committed sales team. Our experience of the last 10 years has us developing closer alignment between the company, its manufacturing system or process and the retailer who is key to the manufacturer’s sales success. This is story about one of them.
It began three years ago when, yet again, we heard the refrain. The client prospect was producing quality local clothing. It had strong national presence, high brand recognition and loyal end-users. Better marketing, they thought, was the logical next step toward higher market profile and increased sales both at home and in Australia which, for them, was small but significant market. Marketing, at least in isolation, was not the answer, we said. First of all, we needed better marketing understanding. What, exactly, did customers really think about the company?
Initial research, particularly with retailers, revealed an interesting story. Retailers and buyers were positive about the quality, styles and even the pricing of the products. “If we had other products with such brand loyalty we would be delighted,” said the retailers. “BUT…”
The “but” was constant and emerged in conversation without prompting.
“But” was all about delivery or rather, the lack of it.
The company had quality product that was in demand, well respected and enjoyed excellent price points that appealed to retailers’ customers. The problem, at least in the retailers’ eyes, was not marketing. It was instead the company’s inability to deliver the goods on time, of the quality required and on time for the season.
The company had history of late delivery which, in turn, caused retailer frustration, disappointment and even reluctance to order.
Telling the client what their customers had to say was easy. Getting our new client to take an in-depth and honest look at the way the company operated was harder. That required the trust of all staff, commitment by management to listen and willingness to change attitudes and processes – all of which would take time.
But the process began. Staff and production management were interviewed over several weeks, comments and opinions were collated and story about the company and its productivity was compiled. It was tale of pride, commitment, frustration and short-term solutions rather than long-term planning and discipline.
Employees were proud of the company, its product and its owner. They were also committed but this was not always recognised by the several layers of management and sales staff. There was frustration at almost every level, from factory floor to the owner’s office door.
Productivity was inconsistent and interrupted by “urgent” production demands from distressed clients who bent the ears of sales managers and, in some cases, the owner. Solutions were based on fixing the now, rather than stepping back and examining the processes.
We started to introduce words like planning, trust and teams. Managers were asked to “bring solutions not problems” and to embrace the phrase “delegation not abdication”.
The process of planning for the new season’s fashions began. Commitments were made to produce samples for photography. The sales team was promised product on time and ready for the market. And so it was.
Sounds easy. But behind the scenes all aspects of the production process were analysed, considered, evaluated and enhanced. Staff started offering ideas and telling management what problems were preventing them from improving production and productivity. They provided solutions and ideas that improved their part of the process.
Management in turn started looking at communication – internal and external. They looked at their supplier relations and began to understand what it meant to dele­gate based on doing it right, rather than handing it on and hoping like hell.
Problems were discussed and solutions found. Some were simple, such as better systems and processes between machinists and laundry. Others required improved communications with raw material suppliers, the dye house or outworkers. It was no longer sufficient to say there was problem. solution had to be offered and if it couldn’t be resolved within department it was brought to the group to consider.
The process built trust between individuals and management. Despite some occasional frustration and disappointment the company’s production increased by 30 percent over the next three years. Employee satisfaction increased and to this day, customer satisfaction and trust in delivery is increasing. Demand has climbed, staff are better paid and the commitment to producing quality New Zealand-made is absolute.
Regular two-monthly progress checks were made and weekly production meeting attended by all departmental managers. Everyone was informed on the progress of orders in the pipeline, sampling discussions and release decisions. Dispatch schedules were set, incoming goods verified and every step from design, production, process and maintenance was analysed, debated and agreed. Meetings were short, sharp and focused. Those responsible knew what, where and when they were responsible. The word “I” disappeared and “we” became the goal for measured success.
Three years on, the same staff and management team are together. There were no resignations or sackings. There has been considerable investment in new machinery, and some new staff are on the factory floor. Induction and training processes have also been enhanced.
The greatest gains have been growth in people, more trust, commitment and productivity which continues to increase. Management and staff work in harmony, and delegation is based on understanding roles and providing support.
There is always room for improvement. But the process is better planned, suppliers are more aware of the company’s needs and the processes are meeting the demands made on them.
The company has made commitment to in-house training for new staff. Management training, using NZIM courses and quality presenters who have walked the talk and who offer real experience as well as theory, has also been introduced.
Finally, customers are satisfied and marketing campaigns are increasing brand awareness in stores and the marketplace in general.
As for the politics? Thanks to MMP the company is in position of stable governance, increasing productivity and balanced business profile.

Tom McBrearty AFNZIM is partner in McBrearty & Associates and chairman of NZIM Southern.
[email protected]

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