There are many potential challenges hiding within manufacturing projects. Without the right kind of planning and preparation, issues can crop up with little warning and cause Project Teams to compensate by cutting corners, either in the level of work being performed, the materials used, or even in the overall scope of the project.
Unfortunately, if project managers don’t make quality a top priority, striving for solutions that maintain excellence across the project’s lifecycle, the impacts to the organization can be devastating. The features and benefits that were expected may never materialize, leaving the company to deal with resources that don’t deliver sufficient value to meet operational needs. Revenue projections might fall if a manufacturing project goes off the rails and doesn’t deliver the expected productivity improvements, cost savings, or volume capabilities. The project itself may never be completed, simply dying on the vine as its funding and other allocated resources run out.
How can a center of excellence ensure equality remains even as new challenges come to light? Several strategies can be used to remove some of the guesswork, eliminate uncertainties, and give the Project Team the tools to overcome problems in a proactive way.
Understand the usefulness—and limitations—of benchmarking data
Industry information is a valuable driver behind successful project execution, but it can be difficult to apply evenly and it doesn’t always provide the organization with enough input to truly useful. Be sure the team is aware of the methodology used to harvest and analyze the data, and from there identify where the findings may or may not be relevant to a particular project effort. Is the data too old to be of value? Was it gathered from organizations in a different sector or of a size that doesn’t translate well to the current project? Don’t fall into the trap of relying on benchmarking data without knowing its true usefulness.
Determining activity durations and dependencies is crucial to success
The team has no way to resequence activities or compress the project schedule if they don’t have a clear picture of each activity’s estimated duration and possible connections to other tasks in the project timeline. Determining this information is a step that requires dedicated effort during the planning phase, but it provides critical information the Project Team can use to make quick decisions if problems arise. With duration and dependency data in hand, PMs will know if a proposed schedule change is workable or not, or whether a conflict is created. This eliminates confusion and wasted effort later, both of which have the potential to put the project even further behind schedule.
Develop contingency plans to address uncertainty
There’s no way to completely avoid variables and unknowns in a manufacturing project, but the center of excellence can greatly reduce the impact these factors have on the project if they put in the time to create contingency plans that address the most likely scenarios. Develop alternative strategies that can be quickly implemented so the team has a way to effectively maneuver around problems while maintaining the project’s forward momentum.
Implement stringent project controls to avoid cutting corners
The early warning provided by robust controls will help the team spot trouble while there’s still time to address it without sacrificing quality in the process. Identify those areas that should be subject to extra scrutiny and ensure everyone is aware of them. For example, carefully monitor for any sign that an activity may run over its allotted duration estimate. Deployed in conjunction with real-time status updates, project controls are tremendously effective at raising warning flags before problems have a chance to create downstream impacts.