Monthly Archives: March 2011

Rarely does a business management theorist get a chance to prove himself by taking a key role in the fast-breaking news story of the year. And even rarer does it lead to concrete success.

That was the opportunity presented to Pinnacle Strategies CEO Mark Woeppel when BP surprised him with a call for help fighting the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The call would lead Pinnacle on an international mission to boost output of spill fighting equipment and then to help organize a historic mop up — the cleaning of more than 10,000 boats, ships and rigs.

As the magnitude of the spill became clear last April, BP put out the order to buy all material that could possibly be of use. But it found the entire U.S. production of critical cleanup resources was not enough. Oil was spreading — often where no workers, booms, skimmers or other equipment existed to contain it.

As with many success stories, Pinnacle’s involvement started with an incidental connection. Clint Wood, the BP executive in charge of supply, recalled a time years earlier when he briefly collaborated with Woeppel to boost production.

Now, Wood needed decontamination suits, boats, detergents, real estate for clean up sites, containment boom, dock space, boats, and other scarce material. More than equipment, Wood realized he needed to mobilize minds.

“I sifted through old e-mails and found one of Mark’s marketing letters,” Wood said. “I’ve always been an early adopter. I wanted to see if we could use Theory of Constraints to increase throughput.”

Within 48 hours of Wood’s Friday evening phone call, Pinnacle launched a marathon of visits through North America and Europe to work with BP’s key suppliers to increase production.

One early visit was to a Walker, Michigan factory. Prestige Products was asked by BP to supply as much oil containment boom as it could…

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Building a System That Delivers Orders On Time, In Less Time

Despite the advances in information technology and systems, most plants manage the process of prioritizing and managing the production of customer orders as if it were an art, approaching the task as a craftsman would, rather than treating order fulfillment systemically, using a robust process to manage and control production.

Rarely is the order fulfillment process treated as a process unto itself, with sequential steps and appropriate controls.  Instead, order fulfillment is treated as an independent group of production steps, delegated to the resource owners (the plant) who do the work.  Typically, they have little incentive to deliver on time, but rather, their incentive is to be “efficient”.  As a result, the important task of improving on time delivery is an afterthought in process improvement efforts.  In the end, orders are thrown over the “wall” from the sales function to the production function, like hand grenades that might explode into a product that satisfies the customer.  The result is chaotic efforts, late deliveries and unhappy customers.

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