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When you hire a consulting firm, you expect recommendations, changes, process improvements and a healthy return on your investment. In short, you want your company to be more efficient and profitable when the consultants walk out the door than it was when they walked in. Right? That should be a given.
But, what happens when the project is finished, when the consultants are not there to guide the process going forward? The answer to that question is process improvement sustainability and is a key element USC Consulting Group specializes in.
The aftermath: Preparing clients for sustainability
At USC Consulting Group, operations consulting is what we do. Companies bring us in to look at their operations with a fresh set of eyes, leveraging best practices we’ve learned in our half century (and counting) in the business. We’re not party to office politics and other company red tape, and as such, we’re able to make recommendations for necessary changes, process improvements, and operating and management system overhauls to get the company functioning optimally.
Increasing throughput and yield, reducing excess costs, identifying and eliminating waste — these are some of our areas of expertise. But, at USC, there’s one thing we DON’T do. We do not set it and forget it.
That’s one aspect of our approach that sets us apart from our competitors out there. We play the long game. We don’t swoop in, offer solutions and swoop out, leaving clients on their own. We deliver results that our clients can maintain. We make sure the positive changes we’ve helped companies enact will stick, long after we’re not walking through the door every day. It’s the whole “give a man a fish vs. teach him how to fish” philosophy. It’s our goal to give clients the tools to keep it going. Here’s how we do it:
1. Employee involvement. This needs to start from Day One. It’s hard to overstate how critical employee involvement is while the project is happening, and after it’s complete. We use “daily huddles” with team members to engage on things like scheduling, production, maintenance, quality, project status and much more. We do best practice skills. We review KPIs. The whole idea is to give team members the tools to continue successful operations and maintain the results we’ve achieved together.
2. Action items. Throughout our process, we will regularly identify action items, steps that need to take place going forward. We’ll get agreement on these and hold people accountable for success. It helps set them up for continued success after the project is finished.
3. Managing change management. We say it often — we can effect all the change in the world. But if we don’t manage that change correctly, none of it will stick. We’ve become experts in effective change management over the years. A few pearls of wisdom we’ve picked up along the way: Operational changes require behavioral changes. Employees, especially longtime employees, don’t necessarily love that. People need reassurance their jobs aren’t disappearing. Also, it’s extremely useful to recruit “advocates” on the front lines who can champion the changes we’re implementing. And it’s vital to be clear on the “why” of any changes put forth. Read more about it in “8 Change Management Best Practices to Ensure Sustainability” on our blog.
4. General training. We develop education and training for “in the field” work for team members, supervisors, leads and managers to support the Management Operating System changes being made by the team as well as supporting behavioral change management — also a critical part of the process. People need to do their jobs differently. Sometimes radically differently. And it can be a stumbling block for employees who may be resistant to change. The training gives them the skills to keep progress going.
5. Lean Six Sigma training. It’s a pretty safe bet you don’t have a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt on your staff currently. No problem. We do. One of the most effective ways to create lasting process improvements out there, Lean Six Sigma is the combination of two manufacturing methodologies, Lean, which is focused on eliminating waste and reducing process lead times and Six Sigma, which focuses on cutting down on defects and improving quality. But it takes a lot of study to get it right. That’s why we choose team members to train in this highly effective tool so our efforts using it to increase efficiency and decrease defects are sustainable. Read all about Lean Six Sigma in our eBook, “Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?”
6. Toolkit. This is a playbook of what we’ve done on the project, successes we have achieved, steps forward, sustainable practices and more. It’s a detailed, workable plan that outlines how to go forward and build on that success.
All of these tactics work in tandem to ensure process improvement sustainability, so companies remain firing on all cylinders now and into the future. But, that’s not all. We may not be on site every day after a project is completed, but we’re always just a phone call away. We play the long game with our clients and perform audits to ensure sustained results. Setting and forgetting isn’t part of our playbook. Never has been. Never will be.
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We’re celebrating a milestone here at USC Consulting Group — 55 years partnering with businesses around the globe empowering their performance. Our goal is to help our clients drive operating excellence, increase throughput, become more efficient and boost their bottom lines.
We got our start in 1968 when founders Tom Rice and Pat Price founded a fully-engaged operations management consulting firm that strives to impart positive, impactful change to our clients. Back then, we were Universal Scheduling Company, communicating with clients over mimeograph and analyzing their schedules. We’ve grown quite a bit since those early days. Over the years, we expanded into other industries like mining & metals, food & beverage, life sciences, transportation & logistics and more. Our reach opened up to serve companies all around the globe. In 2001, we changed our name to USC Consulting Group to better reflect the breadth of our services and a few years later, relocated to Tampa, where our corporate headquarters is today.
That’s a tremendous growth story that we’re incredibly proud of.
During our half-century-plus in this business, we’ve seen a lot of changes come down the pike. The ups and downs of the economy, employment markets that wax or wane, the ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic, technology advancements in machinery and tools for businesses we serve, and a whole host of other factors that ebb and flow during the passage of time.
We’ve rolled with it all and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
What has 55 years of consulting taught us?
Here are some of the top things we’ve learned during our 55 years in this business.
Experience matters, but every challenge we tackle for our clients is different. Many consulting firms dole out cookie-cutter solutions. But we’ve learned there is no such thing if you want to find sustainable results. Even if two businesses are in the same industry, they are not the same. We understand companies have unique processes, procedures, management styles, cultures, machinery, employees — you name it. So we go into every project with fresh eyes, knowing that what worked for others may not work again. There are too many variables to apply cookie-cutter solutions. That’s why we start by listening rather than talking to learn each client’s challenges before implementing improvements.
Upper management walking the shop floor is vital. We can recommend operations changes all day long, but the meat of the action happens day-to-day on the front lines, no matter the industry you’re in. If you’re a manager or in the C-suite, it’s so important to get down into the nitty-gritty of how their work gets done. You’ll get a better understanding of your operations, spot trouble sooner and also spot diamonds in the rough for promotion. You’ll hear great ideas to improve operations from the people who are actually doing the job, and when those employees are engaged, it leads to ultimate business success. Read more about it in “How to Increase Employee Engagement and Training to Improve Retention.”
Getting people onboard at the outset is a key element of success. Over the years, we’ve learned not everyone in a company is excited about process or operations improvements. Consultants can be viewed with skeptical eyes. That’s why we encourage engagement with employees at all levels, getting people on board early so employees understand they’re part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Going beyond Lean Six Sigma… Lean, which has been around forever and has recently migrated from the manufacturing floor into other industries (they’re even talking about Lean HR methods) and Six Sigma, a newer technique, are two methodologies for improving processes. Two sides of the same coin, Lean looks at making processes more efficient and reducing lead times, while Six Sigma focuses on cutting down on defects. The combination of the two produces powerful results. They’ve joined to become one methodology in some circles: Lean Six Sigma, or LSS, which aims to cut defects and shorten lead times. Striking the perfect balance between the two is tricky. It requires training and certification in the techniques. At USCCG, Dr. Frank Esposto is our Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Senior Director of Quality. He is also a certified LSS instructor. Read more about it in our eBook, Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?
…but we don’t just set it and forget it. Dr. Esposto says: “When we employ the Lean Six Sigma methodology to help our clients’ operations, we don’t simply do it for them. We train clients in these techniques so they can employ them long after we leave.” That goes for any process changes we help our clients make. It’s not about giving them a fish. It’s about teaching them to fish. That’s how lasting change happens and it’s a key differentiator between us and other consultants out there.
We could go on forever about lessons learned in a half-century plus. But the bottom line is, putting our customers’ needs squarely in the forefront of every engagement, understanding the marketplace and challenges the business faces, and focusing on people and processes will help your business reach a state of operational excellence.
Contact us today and let USC put our experience to work for you.
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If your business has a problem or obstacle you can’t solve — a slowdown in throughput, trouble on the line, machinery problems, supply chain issues, demand outweighing supply and more — and your team is struggling to overcome the challenge, it’s time to bring in an operations management consultant.
Operations management consultants will first look at your current operations model, systems and day-to-day processes of getting the job done. Then, they work with your team to implement positive, impactful changes to help your business strive toward operational excellence.
Why Hire an Operations Management Consultant
Is it the right time to hire an outside resource? Perhaps. Before we can answer that question though, let’s look at the reasons why you would need to bring in some help. While each business and situation is different, we find companies seek an operations management consultant due to one or more of these common reasons:
- Current processes aren’t getting the job done
- You need fresh eyes to assess a situation
- Process improvement expertise
- When you don’t know if it’s time to upgrade assets
- Time and workload snags
- Resistance to change
- Planned shutdowns or outages
- When you need to reduce operating costs or improve throughput and efficiency
Operations management consultants can be the ‘horsepower’ your team needs to overcome these various challenges to achieve improvements quickly and effectively.
Now, for the burning question… When is the right time to bring in operations consultants? It boils down to dissatisfaction with the status quo, problems organizations can’t seem to overcome, and challenges they’re not equipped to solve. But, like many things in life, it’s not that simple.
For that reason, our subject matter experts at USC Consulting Group walk you through the process in the following eBook:
This eBook covers various concepts, including:
- Defining what are operations management consultants
- The benefits of an outside resource
- The best time to bring them in
- Where consultants can help your business the most
If you have questions about operations management consulting and what it can do for your business, give us a call or email us at email@example.com. We want you to be well-informed so you can feel comfortable and confident bringing in some help.
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At many organizations, managers often opt to come up with new ideas or solutions to dilemmas using their own resources and employees, rather than bring in an external consultant or firm.
In these cases, management-level decision makers have typically been averse to the idea of setting aside further funding to pay for services perceived to be already available in-house — a mindset that may hinder progress and overall efficiency. Sometimes, the only way to come up with the most common-sense solutions involves bringing in a set of fresh eyes as a means of weighing all available options.
Organizations that have traditionally avoided consultants have had provided understandable reasons for doing so, whether it be that they are concerned about consulting fees on the specificity of a project’s scope, that consultants can be too independently minded, or that bringing them onboard will impact the morale of regular employees. If handled correctly through strong communication and undertaken with a clear approach in mind, organizations can avoid these issues when hiring a consultant or consulting agency — and reap only benefits.
Why hire a consultant?
As objective, independent arbiters that can analyze any aspect of an organization — past, present, and future — consultants’ decisions are not inherently biased in that they are influenced by ongoing practices that may, in turn, be the cause of any operational deficiencies. While internal employees may have some of the expertise needed to solve a problem, consultants can specialize specifically in a number of different fields, from manufacturing and human resources to finance and information technology, according to Mind Tools.
While internal employees may have some expertise needed to solve a problem, consultants can specialize in a number of different fields.
As Consultant’s Mind notes, consultants are hired based on their “ability to make the complex simple, and drive decision making and action” and to “help leaders make change” to ensure their organizations move forward, and not in reverse. Other areas that consultants focus on include leadership development, change management, and overall organizational strategy.
Some common situations in which an organization may bring in an outside consultant for assistance include crises or mergers and acquisitions. Due to the fact that many are hired on a contractual basis, consultants are also convenient because their contract can be terminated more easily than an in-house employee if desired results are not achieved.
While they are hired for relatively limited timeframes, consultants carry out work that can affect an organization for years to come. As a result, a client should develop a knowledge management plan to observe a consultant’s work and observe his or her techniques and approaches. In conjunction with cross-training teams of employees on these skills before a consultant’s contract ends, a knowledge transfer process should also be incorporated into a project. After all, once the consultant or consultancy team leaves, a company’s own employees will be responsible for picking up where the project was left off.
How to maximize consulting success for all involved
Many businesses today seek to make the most of their existing resources to create growth to avoid investing in any new, expensive and time-consuming capital improvements. In some cases, the lack of performance in improvement teams isn’t tied to a lack of investment, but from high-level organizational issues. For instance, three scenarios that USC Consulting Group consultants encounter in projects that lack strong performance from their improvement teams are unrealistic or overwhelming demands, flawed operational objectives, and workflow processes that are reactive, rather than proactive. Consultants can help identify those organizational issues to enhance how internal teams work.
Many businesses and other organizations today are seeking to make the most of their existing resources to create growth, but without investing in any expensive and time-consuming capital improvements.
To begin the consulting process, Mind Tools recommends that both the client and consultant should establish a balanced relationship in which the latter’s role is clearly defined and controlled in terms of the limits of its project scope. At this point, the consultant should be provided with a company’s mission or vision statements and other important information, such as key stakeholders and (in some cases) ongoing office disputes. It is further advised that a hired consultant begin getting acquainted with or starting the project as soon as possible; often times, consultants prefer to work with measurable “smart” goals Organizations should always monitor and track their new contractors’ progress and provide feedback to ensure the entire process is comfortable and convenient for both parties involved.
Solutions employed by consultants in response to clients’ issues include aspects like communications improvement, creating and quantifying new operational metrics and the implementation of auditing and easy-to-deploy training programs. Often times, an organization’s internal improvement teams are siloed into their own operations because they do not maintain or even develop lines of communication with other teams to facilitate organization-wide progress. With regard to the quantification of new metrics to help drive an organization away from reactive practices, a consultant might suggest the adoption of certain key performance indicators. In doing so, teams can direct more of their focus to work on more overarching goals and projects with the purpose of driving growth and increased revenue. While businesses may have consistent training programs in place, poor quality documentation and auditing can in turn result in programs that are not aligned with what are truly best practices and workers end up learning substandard processes.
At USC Consulting Group, our consultants have implemented solutions that help businesses improve their bottom lines for over 50 years. Connect with us today to speak with one of our consulting professionals about how we can help your organization improve operational performance.
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Recognizing your business’s need to make changes to your operations is the first step in the process improvement process, but how you go about it will make or break your business. When you engage only internal resources to make a plan for improvement and then implement that plan, you are at the mercy of their time and knowledge. While you know your business better than any outsider, you are also limited to possible solutions because you have not been through this a hundred times before. You’ll suffer through the trial and error process at the expense of your business.
Within any organization, you’re constantly keeping up with everyday maintenance, finding ways to improve upon your current state, and monitoring what your competitors are doing to increase their value. There are plenty of things you can do on your own to help improve certain aspects of your business, but when you need to make a major overhaul to one area or the entire organization, it’s time to call in the experts.
Your Business is Like Your Home
When renovating your kitchen, you wouldn’t hand each family member a sledge hammer and tell them to start the demo or let each of them take a corner of the room to put in the specific things they want. During the renovation, they also have to keep up with their regular duties throughout, so the improvements would be done at different paces, with different levels of craftsmanship. Unless your family is made up of an interior designer, an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, and a general contractor, your kitchen probably isn’t going to turn out better than it was before.
When your organization approaches process improvement plans, a functional cross-departmental plan is unlikely to emerge in a timely manner. Even with a plan, you need to trust that your people know what they are doing and can actually do it while keeping up with their regular workload. Does your organization have an expert for each aspect of the change who can devote the necessary time to execute the process improvement plan on time? If not, this may not be the right approach.
If you are able to complete this change without outside assistance, you may enjoy some short-term benefits. However, when things start to breakdown, you will have to go back and try to fix them, adding to the cost of the process improvement. Continuing to patch-up parts of your business over the long-term will reduce your overall efficiency and chip-away at your bottom-line year after year.
Buying the “How To” isn’t a Sure Thing
Some organizations believe that they just need the right plan, and everything else will fall into place. These organizations will pay an outside firm for an assessment and purchase a “How To” guide based on the results. While they may have the manual telling them what to do to make the changes they desire, they are often unable to fully implement the outlined process improvements.
If this was how you planned to renovate your kitchen, the results would be better than the first approach. Hiring an interior designer is the right move, but reading about how to install electrical, gas lines, and plumbing doesn’t guarantee everything will function.
Leave it to the Experts
By bringing in outside resources specializing in operational process improvement and organizational restructuring, you remove much of the risk and stand to achieve better results in less time than an internal approach. Their people will do all of the work and your people will reap the benefits. While having someone else complete the entire project from development through implementation may cost more in the immediate future, the guaranteed success and long-term benefits make it the obvious choice.
Selecting a contractor with an experienced crew to design your dream kitchen and meticulously complete each piece of the renovation to your exact standards, will ensure your kitchen is done right the first time. Investing in the right resources adds value to your home and increases the overall functionality of your household.
Taking the opportunity to invest in your business when making process improvement changes is crucial to achieving your long-term goals and ensures the change doesn’t shift your business in the wrong direction. In the end, your staff will have the tools and training to maintain the new processes.
One of the benefits of working for a consulting firm is the exposure to a wide range of industries and working environments that a majority of the population will never have the opportunity to experience. Most people will never step foot in an underground gold mine, a candy factory, a pulp & paper mill, or a chemical processing plant, let alone work in all of those places in a given year. We are not most people, and we work in all types of places with all types of clients. It’s the variety of situations that draws us in and the need to improve those situations that brings success to our clients.
Why do we love consulting so much? Because…
We are genuine problem solvers. The thrill of taking on a new project with its own set of challenges is why we are in this business. We’re hungry for the chance to apply our unique set of skills to a project and see it through. We like to find the source of each issue and apply the right solution to correct it. It’s not a problem for us to fix, it’s a puzzle for us to solve.
We are driven to improve upon the status quo. We don’t like living with things that are good enough; we want them to be the best. We know that processes can always be improved and small changes can make a huge difference. It’s this need to constantly evolve the way we do things that gives our clients the results they desire.
We have the capacity to see more. From within an organization, it’s hard to see where the disconnects are or imagine doing things differently. When a client opens up their doors and lets us in, we see the potential for what their business is capable of. This outsider’s perspective often reveals more than internal audit. We are not bound by the limitations of how things are, we visualize how they could be.
We get to learn from everyone. The knowledge gained from all of our various work sites is a major asset we can bring to our clients. A seemingly unresolvable issue in one industry may have a solution discovered in another. We get to apply our knowledge from several industries to problems in completely different ones. We can apply solutions from mines to offices or hospitals to manufacturing. By coming in with a different outlook, we can suggest an alternative not previously considered.
As a consultant, the experience gained and the opportunity to make a difference for our clients is unparalleled in any other job. We get to bring our ideas to the table, work to implement those ideas in the real world, and see the results. Every client is different, but the desire to succeed at each project is always there.