Focus on Operations: Executive Insights for Chief Operating Officers (COOs)

Focus on Operations: Executive Insights for Chief Operating Officers (COOs)

Q&A with Bill Franch, Manufacturing Consultant

Insights for Chief Operating Officers: Every quarter, we’ll present insights from top executives from different backgrounds and functions. To help you prepare for Q2 2021, here are operations insights from Bill Franch. Bill is an independent manufacturing consultant and member of the Cerius network.

What are the business struggles you see in operations right now? 

I see and hear of numerous global logistics challenges across a variety of industries, all a consequence of the current pandemic. These issues have impacted supply chain lead times and product/material availability, often culminating in delayed revenues. All have added layers of uncertainty into both the manufacturing and service sectors.

In addition, I’ve noticed that remote office work schedules have created challenges for which most businesses were not prepared. The remote office has restricted communications, collaboration, and in some ways, teamwork. We, of course, lost the benefit of face-to-face work once office life and business travel halted. 

One unfortunate result of these and other recent business conditions is a performance slip in response times. These slips have not been limited to a specific business process; I’ve seen a negative shift in quotation processes, corrective actions and product approvals.  

What are your top tips for Chief Operating Officers in 2021? Why? 

I suggest that you hone the skills and expertise of your teams on several critical items. These practices will reinforce margin, cash flow and the customer service performance commitments for which you are responsible.

First, be prepared to do frequent reforecasting as the business models keep changing, whether due to logistics or capacity changes in factories and supply chain. And it’s expected to continue this way a bit longer. Even once the logistics challenges improve, we don’t know how both supply and demand might have shifted during the past 15 months.  

Secondly, continue to closely monitor your KPI trends since the return to some sense of normal business is expected to be a bit rocky along the way. Knowing the net change impact, week to week and month to month, will allow you to pivot quickly to recover. Manufacturing businesses typically look at:

  • Margins
  • Variable costs
  • Cash flow
  • Lead times
  • Order fulfillment
  • Customer Service metrics

It’s also important to aggressively monitor your supply chain by knowing their struggles and recovery plans, as well. 

Lastly, utilize your Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) process to improve cross-functional communications, problem solving, and goal attainment. This business process offers a great foundation for your work. 

And, if you don’t have the resources to do all of this work, get the right professional help quickly. The right interim assistance from Cerius Executives is a solid investment in your business’s future.

What’s your favorite piece of advice—guidance that you go back to time and time again? 

My favorite piece of advice is, “Stay on your feet and stay in the game.”

This timeless line has often resonated for myself, my businesses, and friends with whom I’ve shared it. It was shared by my first boss/mentor, who was a particularly clever, savvy and successful business professional. 

Further Reading: More Operations Insights for Chief Operations Officers

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