We peered at the yellowing, frayed floor plans and other documents that were pinned all over a blue velvet backing.
In the bottom right corner, one number was given special prominence: 13.6 hours – the reduction in manufacturing time they had achieved for a product to pass through that section of the line.
Later that afternoon, we met with the CEO of the company in his office and asked him about his growth plans.
“We need to develop more products, faster,” he said abruptly, “Product development always takes too long.”
“How long, on average?” I asked.
“About 9-12 months for each product, but in some cases this can even go up to 2 years,” he said, sounding slightly pained, “If we can increase the rate at which we develop new products, we can increase sales immediately. And obviously cut our development costs.”
“And how are you measuring your engineering process times?” Lakshman asked.
“We have a plan and we cross check that against how long it actually takes. If anything goes on too long, we investigate.”
“And what if the plan is wrong?”
“Well, we have all the historical times for product development. That’s as good as it gets.”
It’s hard to get the cadence of these interviews right without influencing the outcome. However, I decided to persist.
“If I asked you specifically what the breakdown of all the activities was for each day of the nine months of your product development time, would you be able to give it to me?”
“Well, unless someone is going to trawl through every email, drawing, and other documents, probably not!” he admitted honestly, chuckling to himself at the absurdity of it all.