The 2013 car racing season is drawing to a close - Bathurst 1000, Formula V, Formula Ford and classics etc all now reflecting on the past and looking at next year. How do your business improvement programs compare?

Today we look at how the application of cost reduction and productivity improvement tools in an operation have been applied to a Formula Ford to gain a competitive edge.

It’s great to watch these high performance cars race around Wakefield, Eastern Creek or Bathurst.  What struck me was that small improvements made, in many areas, compounded into significant results!  It makes the difference between being in the top 5 or bottom 5.

In this class of racing, as in any other, to remain competitive the car and driver need to be as lean as possible.  Engineers and drivers are continuously looking for areas to reduce weight without sacrificing safety or speed.  For instance, gun drilling the axles lightened the car by one kilogram.  Another 4.8 kgs was shed by changing the brake callipers.  A seemingly insignificant 200 grams was found in the Pi speed sensor and so on.  Small savings.  Big results.  Are competitors doing the same?  If they want to remain in the race; sure they are!  And that is the crux of a continuous improvement programme, small improvements done consistently and continuously equate to significant improvements in your competitive edge.

It was interesting to note that it was significantly cheaper to make the driver leaner than to decrease the weight of the car.  Excess weight in a business sense is not necessarily in the headcount but in the mind set, daily habits and processes.  Staff who are well trained, adhering to well defined and measurable processes, are more efficient.  Standard Operating Procedures should be available and adhered to by all operators for all processes.  These SOPs should be regularly assessed to ensure they are best practice.  Old ideas, doing things because “that is the way they have always been done” and a lack of formal operating procedures can lead to poor productivity.  That is the business carrying dead weight.

Before the race car hits the track, hour upon hour has been spent ensuring that it is in the best possible condition.  Scheduled maintenance is done at pre-ordained intervals, which may be after or before each race, after a certain time frame, or number of kilometres.  Competitiveness relies as much on driver skills as on a finely tuned and well maintained car.  Effective preventative maintenance is also critical to business performance.  It out performs the “fix it when it breaks” approach by a factor of 4 or more when measured as the cost impact to a business. 

Look at the Aviation Industry; I am quite pleased when I catch a plane, knowing that the Preventative Maintenance and CI program at the airline is considered “best practice”.  Break-Fix is not part of the culture!

To remain competitive and growing, all organisations need a CI program and, in many cases, a Preventative Maintenance Program as well.  How does your business manage a process and culture of continually improving?