Measure What You Manage
Recently Howie Fenton, senior consultant with NAPL, wrote an article for Print CEO in which he recognizes the importance of metrics: “To measure, track and benchmark operational and financial performance.” John Sarantakos, IPMA president, in In-Plant Graphics, offers an outline of “effective reporting” that focuses on using production reports as marketing tools.
Both are correct.
I would take measurement a step further. Peter Drucker, management guru, is often credited with saying “You can't manage what you don't measure.” This is a broad statement, to be sure, but you’d be surprised how many in-plant managers don’t measure anything. When I do an in-plant assessment, I ask to see copies of production reports and planning documents. The production reports tell me how the manager uses data to track production and performance and the types of information s/he passes on to management. The planning documents show how the measures are used—that is, how the manager manages.
As managers we should use metrics to support every major decision (and most minor ones as well). Need to justify a new machine? Evaluate the performance of a machine operator? Submit a budget request? Plan your paper inventory? Justify your operation? Understand what your customers think of you and your department? Report on successes and failures? Everything can and should be measured, and those measures should be the foundation of your decisions.
Sounds pretty straightforward, but I continue to be amazed at the number of in-plant managers that don’t count stuff. Very, very few of the shops I work with measure anything, and those that do, don’t cover some of the important areas.
In one case I worked with a client that wanted to buy an envelope press and had even included it in his budget. The only problem? He didn’t know how many envelopes his organization needed. How can you argue for a piece of equipment if you can’t articulate the demand?
In another case the organization had installed a large digital production device capable of producing 2 to 3 million pages, but when I asked to see the production reports for the machines that had been replaced by this monster, there were none. Turns out they were only producing a fraction of the machine’s capacity, so it’s going to be hard for this shop to compete with commercial shops. When customers complain about prices being too high, they may be right.
Metrics are important.
• They flag problems
• They provide tools to recognize success
• They are tools to control and manage costs
• They help focus on goal-directed performance
• They demonstrate contributions to strategic initiatives
• They demonstrate added value
Do you know how many jobs are in your shop right now? Do you know how many of them are late? Do you know the status of your budget? Do you know how many booklets you produced last year? How about full-color brochures? Do you know how much work you’re doing on your digital color machine? How many jobs were re-run because of quality issues? Do you know how many jobs went to outside vendors?
If we look at the functions of management—planning, controlling, staffing, organizing, and training—every one of them has one or more metrics that can help you manage more effectively. But it’s up to you to use them.