Change Guru Shows Manufacturers How to Embrace Process Improvements

March 21, 2018

Everybody knows change can be hard, but Maria Craig thrives on it.

She loves showing businesses where they can cut waste and work smarter to achieve their business goals.

“Sometimes you can’t see all the potential for improvement because you’re too close to it,” Craig says. “That is when you might need the perspective of an outsider, someone who can see what’s wrong and isn’t afraid to point it out.”

For manufacturers, pressure to change comes from a variety of sources: growing pains, workforce shortages and capacity needs. You see it’s time to do things differently – but what, and how? At what cost?

Craig, an expert in process improvements, is the newest member of Aprio’s Manufacturing and Distribution Strategy and Design Services team. The group helps manufacturing organizations increase profit while creating a culture that embraces continuous improvement.

In other words, Craig and her colleagues show companies new ways to do things better and faster to make more money.

Always a Keen Eye

Some little girls want to become doctors or teachers. But growing up in Colombia with an eye for detail and business, Maria Craig was destined for something else, even if she didn’t yet know the word for it.

“When I was a little girl, my mother would call me boss baby. If my brother was eating with a spoon instead of a fork and making a mess, I would ask him why he’s not using a fork and then explain to him why he should,” recalls Craig.

At 12 she’d use her allowance to buy snacks at a store, then sell them to classmates for a profit.

By 17, she had incorporated her first small business.

Earning her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering at Pennsylvania’s Elizabethtown College, Craig was introduced to the concept of “lean,” the practice of maximizing value while minimizing waste.

She finally had a name for her passion.

“My eyes were opened,” she says with the energy of a believer. “Once you understand what waste is, you can’t stop seeing it.”

Craig went on to earn a master of business administration for executives from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also earned a Lean Six Sigma certificate from Villanova University and is a certified change practitioner by Prosci, using the ADKAR model for change management.

Helping Manufacturers Change

Manufacturers can struggle with process improvements anywhere in their business — from the back office to the production floor and on to logistics and customer service. Some might be transitioning from a home-grown family model to a more scalable and sophisticated enterprise. Others may be struggling to fill gaps in their workforce or hit capacity goals.

Craig and team apply rigorous methodologies and decades of real-world experience to help manufacturers making permanent change. Generally, their support falls into three categories.
Process Improvement Graphic

1. Leadership Development and Coaching

“It’s not enough to simply roll out an initiative,” Craig says. “You have to build leadership skills so that the change can be sustained. That requires leadership, from the executive level down through direct managers.”

Armed with Myers-Briggs, 360-degree assessments, and other tools, Craig and her team determine preferences and performance gaps at the individual and team levels. Those insights inform strategic planning, decision making and most importantly, change.

2. Change Management

Craig deploys the ADKAR method to reach the five outcomes required for lasting change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement.

“ADKAR can be applied to any type of organizational change that is corporate-wide,” Craig explains. “It may be a simple but disruptive policy change. Or it can be applied to midsize and large corporations taking on something big.”

3. Lean Six Sigma

Using Lean Six Sigma, Aprio’s Manufacturing Strategy & Design Services group helps organizations maximize productivity and reduce cost. Lean Six Sigma uses hard metrics to improve things like safety, quality, people engagement and delivery.

“Lean is all about gaining operational advantages that decrease your bottom-line costs. We are focused on waste minimization or elimination, whether that is in the inventory room, finished product defects, or the way you handle a work order,” Craig explains.

Summary: Process Improvements

Change, whether at the individual or organizational level, is difficult. And it often takes someone from the outside to make it happen and suggest process improvements.

Using rigorous methodologies, supported by experts with real-world experience, organizations can learn to do things better, faster and more efficiently.

Don’t fight change. You can’t grow without it.

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