Value and Velocity
Rewiring Our Company Culture and Business Model to Serve You Best
“Ugh! This new product is taking foreeever!” Sound familiar? We’ve heard it—and as suppliers and customers, have been on both sides of the transaction, too. We produce and deliver custom wire, cable, and engineered assemblies; that’s what we do. And after hearing and experiencing this foreeever feeling from both sides, we realized it was time to change the how we do our jobs.
The deeper discussion below takes you through process of rewiring our company culture and business model to one that serves you best through providing value and velocity.
Quick Customer Takeaways
Most importantly, what this means is that you get:
- Direct access to a team that owns the entire value stream … end to end
- More effective collaboration and learning
- Top quality and better designs that optimize across all key requirements and constraints
- Fewer disconnects, false starts, delays or surprises—and when unforeseen thing do show up, the ability for all stakeholders to show up quickly and mitigate risk and impact
At the end of the day, wire and cable is the current medium in which we work, but it isn’t what we do. It’s really how we do it that creates value and velocity to you.
Looking into common stumbling blocks for customers required introspection from an internal organizational perspective. In a nutshell, what we discovered is that the roadblocks that ultimately impact timelines most often are impeded at the “process milestones” in a project. What’s this all mean?
We deconstructed our production process, and came to a fair assessment that we efficiently and quickly turn around custom wire, cable, and engineered assemblies for various applications and industries with the best of them in the industry—and realized that this issue, at its core, is not about the race to design wire and cable faster than anyone. What we found was that the timeline roadblocks are intrinsically part the traditional design and production process. Most often, lag time—the handing off of one phase of design or production to the next—is the culprit. Citing a lean principle: the majority of the time, the delays occur when nothing is happening.
We set a goal to answer this pain point for customers and address our role in it; we committed to solving this … then tackled it and resolved it internally. It required a complete rewiring of how we thought our best practices should be applied, along with restructuring of our teams and processes. We created a coherent culture committed to the concept of “value and velocity” at all times. As we’ve found—and perpetually aspire to—the two go hand in hand.
Rebuilding the Buyer’s Experience
Step 1: It’s Not About the Tools, It’s About the Approach
When we started to look closer at our business model, it was easy to separate the different functions and capabilities and see them as individual entities. Each resource could be identified as its own “tool”—whether that be a person, job responsibility, processes and protocols, technology, machines, or materials. This represents the typical structure of any organization; and we had all the right elements in place. Inventorying our tools was a good first step.
From there, we knew we needed to radically change our approach:
- The way people think about their roles
- How the organization operates as a whole
- How to impact our customers consistently and positively
Our goal was to create a model that has us ultimately working as a holistic ecosystem—not siloed into distinct and separate factions—with one common cultural vision: create value and velocity for our customers. We flattened our traditional organization structure and revamped an organization and culture that is intentionally built to be collaborative.
To create solutions based on our customers’ definition of value, we established teams capable of adjusting to dynamic situations, not one-size-fits-all answers for customer needs. We’ll discuss this in more detail below as we roll out the process that helped us form our new approach.
Step 2: Communication
The foundational element to all successful customer interactions is clear, consistent, and reliable communication. Any time spent having to redress situations—especially those caused by poor communication—is wasted value and velocity. As well, the source and delivery of all communication must derive from “one voice.” That’s to say, all stakeholders from our company must be on the same page and provide real-time, accurate information as much as possible. This goal set us up for our next initiative: restructuring our business model.
Step 3: Create Insular Value-Stream Teams
In its simplest terms, we wanted to create an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to customer engagement. But doing this “company-wide” with functional departments, which is the traditional model, doesn’t work—as we stated above. What we did, instead, was to form insular value-stream teams built around the unique needs of a specific customer or market. The overall charter of each team is: what is the value that we can provide to our customer and how will we collectively deliver that value in the shortest time possible? That answer, as we’ve mentioned: value and velocity!
Each team consists of colleagues who excel in their area of expertise, and also have full knowledge of their co-workers’ functions. This provides the entire team a holistic and transparent view of all aspects of the customer’s journey—from design and prototype to engineering and production, with quality, supply chain management, and operational oversight also integral parts of the engagement. Status regarding order entry, material management, and production scheduling is available to the entire team—and effectively, you, the customer—allowing you access to all facets of the production cycle with one dedicated team. Without the constraints of rigid roles, team members go to wherever the work is, doing whatever is needed to keep the value (and production) flowing to the customer.
Step 4: Authority and Accountability
For this team structure to truly work, the most vital piece is that each team—individuals within it and as a unit—is empowered to make decisions that will drive forward momentum. As a company, we ensure each colleague has the skills and authority to make decisions quickly (remember: velocity). Ownership fosters accountability and that motivates each person to remain fully and comprehensively involved from beginning to end. Everyone has expertise, but as it applies to the overall team structure, not necessarily a job title. If you can imagine it (and you can, because it exists here!), when you work with one of our teams, you get support from all the roles, as no one is functionally isolated into one role or position. Be assured that if there is a question that pertains to quality, the quality expert will be consulted. The real-life application of this “pod” mentality at Mercury Wire might look like this: everyone on the team will be apprised of the situation and anyone on the team might be getting back to you with the answers you need—all of the information fully vetted and up to date. Internal morning recap meetings and consultative conversations throughout the day ensure this.
Step 5: Flexible and Agile to Customer Needs
The design, engineering, and production process is iterative by nature; that’s a given. Our unique team structure and approach allows each team to simultaneously have granular focus and overarching scope over their projects. This prepares us to flush out potential issues or mistakes, fail quickly with ideas that might not yield the desired results, and create better alternatives. If we hit a roadblock or face unforeseen obstacles, we can be nimble. We’ve learned to spot them sooner and pivot more adeptly. It also allows us to be more flexible in our response to changes requested by customers.
Step 6: Energized Ecosystem
Cross-functionality is a big buzzword—and when implemented well, it does work. But it’s a tough framework to master when organizations are structured in hierarchal siloes, divisions, and departments; and the vast majority of manufacturers are structured this way. We have re-structured into value-stream teams, so we operate cross-functionally by design.
It may sound esoteric, but we really do function as an energized ecosystem—a dynamic organism—rather than a cog-and-wheel machine.
How does this work? We base decisions on changing factors. As things change, and they will, the ability to respond quickly allows us to intercept potential problems and re-imagine a new solution. Because one person can have more than one role, he or she can be the stop gap and can free up the process to move forward in the same direction or allow movement to find a new one. Waiting for someone to receive, review, approve the next step—and often, this has to be repeated multiple times—eats up valuable time. It’s similar to being put on hold foreeever for the manager, only having to repeat the same problem you explained to the first three people you spoke to … and you’re lucky if you get resolution at any step along the way; we’ve all been there!
Part of that mentality is that when we view our role within its limits, we can develop narrow and myopic vision. Value-stream teams can see end-to-end, optimizing the whole as opposed to just a bunch of little disconnected pieces—having to spend extra time to connect the dots. We recognize that everyone can’t do everything, though every contributor has their expertise and skills—the complementary knowledge is what helps the process flows better.
Step 7: Foster Productive Collaboration
You’re our best resource to helping us know what your business and customers need. And just like you, we want to ensure our customers’ success. The best model to achieve that is one that brings us together as partners—sharing a vision and solutions that meet every stakeholder’s needs. It might mean that you need product every day; or you need to change the frequency based on a customer’s fluctuating needs. Perhaps we are testing the design of a prototype and need to make adjustments quickly. All of this requires efficiency. The best way to capitalize on this is to establish, from the very beginning of our engagement with you, open and collaborative communication. Understanding your needs and expectation at the outset helps build a solid structure that allows us to flex with you as needed. And being honest about what and when we will deliver for you is the blueprint we work from.
This provides value to you from day one. Because we never consider our relationships with customer as “one-off exchanges,” you can count on a constructive, informative high-flow back-and-forth with our team— as needed and daily, if the situation warrants it.
What this looks like in real-time behind our doors is that one team might specialize in working with customers who require daily or weekly shipments; another team might be highly adept at working with designing and developing prototypes and products for NPI. If you want to come in and work with our engineers and run product experiments on our equipment, you can. If you need product manufactured on a particular interval, you got it.
This approach ensures fewer disconnects, false starts, delay, or surprises. But if issues do pop-up—we’re more than prepared to handle them with agility. We have a healthy mindset on how we approach difficulties; we are not married to an “always done it that way” outlook. We can step back and adapt.
Why Choose Mercury Wire?
Our unique partnership approach with customers allows you direct, collaborative access to our dynamic team of experts. Our process allows us to continuously identify, adapt, and implement improvements quickly. Our systems and our team’s flexibility ensure customized high-value development programs. Whether you have a cable design in mind, or you want to come to our factory floor to build a prototype, Mercury Wire can design the best product to meet your precise requirements.
The delivery of custom-designed, highly engineered cables and interconnect assemblies starts with you. We thoroughly research the problem you’re trying to solve—going beyond a list of product specifications to analyze and fully understand your application and business goals. Together, we create a vision for a comprehensive solution that suits your needs and exceeds your expectations.
Mercury Wire manages every phase of your project, from initial development through prototyping and production of custom cables and ready-to-install assemblies. It’s how we keep our promise of value and velocity to you. Contact us today to team up with Mercury Wire!