A friend of mine was recently regaling me with tales of airport queues and delays all across Europe. His own flight had been delayed, spoiling his dinner plans. The reason given – ‘Delayed due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft’.

I must admit that I had a laugh, though I could sympathise. Jokingly I told him that they didn’t quite get to the root cause of the problem there! And that got me thinking…

Early on in my last project I came across similar ‘causes’ for frequent production delays, expedited shipment costs, warehouse blockages and missed targets. Now, I know the airline will, in all probability, have done the correct root cause analysis (or RCA) and know the true cause of the delay, or at least I would hope so. However my experience working at the sharp end of operations workstreams across all industries worldwide suggests there are usually gaps in management systems.

If you have a well-managed, lean and focused company, these gaps will probably not be substantial and you will have management controls in place to investigate and correct. But how sure are you that this is the case?

As an example, on a previous project I discovered that it was acceptable for late deliveries of raw materials to be assigned to the reason ‘late truck delivery’. However these delays could sometimes be very serious, resulting in production losses and the shutdown of whole plants!

Issues like this are often left unaddressed because the resources, including human ones, needed to fix them are just not available. However this isn’t acceptable in today’s highly competitive environment. Our Renoir analysis identified a lack of training, proper management controls and measures and severe process gaps, all of which were hampering strong efforts by the company’s own staff to improve performance before we arrived. Their senior management made the decision to move forward with the proposal the Renoir analysis team put forward, and we didn’t let them down.

We designed and installed performance metrics (KPIs), initiated daily and weekly reviews and thoroughly redesigned their RCA systems along with numerous others. Late deliveries would now be tracked back to identify the real causes so relevant corrective and preventative action could be taken. As a result stock could now be correctly repositioned, transport companies measured against targets, re-order levels adjusted appropriately, and so on. By putting these measures in place, as part of a complete management control system, we were able to surpass the client’s expectations.

Now it’s my guess that in our private lives, we’ll all still have to accept such poor excuses for things going wrong as ‘late arrival of the incoming aircraft’. But in the workplace, we shouldn’t accept them, or their impact on the bottom line. When things go wrong, in order to understand what happened, you need to be confident that you can get to the bottom of why. If you’re not there yet, or feel that the gaps in your systems and processes could best be identified and closed by experts in this area, it might be worth thinking about engaging Renoir. You won’t be disappointed.