Building a Savings Factory
Incremental Savings Are Fine, but If You Are Looking for Breakthrough Triple Digit Savings Results, It’s All about Having a Cost Management System
Robert T. Yokl, Chief Value Strategist
No corporation in the 21st century can continue to do the same things and get the same so – so results related to their cost management efforts without questioning their commitment to building a “Savings Factory”. To my thinking, only through massive savings innovations will corporations survive and thrive in the new millennium. Drip, Drip, Drip isn’t going to make a dent in your bottom line!
Why? International competition is brutal; do I need to say the names China, India or Vietnam to get my point across? As a good friend of mine likes to say, “Once a new product or service becomes popular it quickly becomes commoditized and then all of the profits are squeezed out of it”. There is even a parent’s revolt over the high cost of education that is constricting private and public school’s bottom lines. Even non-profits are finding they need at least a 6% to 8% bottom line for sustainability. Just inventing a better widget therefore doesn’t seem to be the answer to making certain that your corporation’s profitability, productivity and prosperity will be maintained in the uncertain years to come.
That’s Why Just Good Enough
Isn’t Good Enough Any Longer!
We must do better than just grind out a few percentage points each year in profits just to keep our heads above water. Especially, when you take into account how an unplanned and unforeseen crisis can arise like 9/11, and the Katrina and Rita hurricanes, or there can be a spike in energy costs that can completely wipe out your bottom line.
If you are sitting back comfortably and hoping (which by the way isn’t a strategy at all) that the “Winds of Change” will blow in your favor, think again! New competitors of yours are on the horizon, and you are losing customers to rivals that you don’t even know about. Brash new startups with better ideas than yours are breathing down your neck. I really don’t think you can afford to sit back and just let stuff happen to you!
Where Are Your New Profit Margins Coming From?
If you think your new margins are coming from new products and services –you’re missing my point – since 80% of new product and services launches fail! If you think they are coming from increased sales of your existing products or services then you must be counting on your competition to be asleep at the wheel, because they aren’t going away.
A Much Better Way! Since it requires almost two dollars in new sales revenues to generate one dollar in profits vs. only $1 dollar in savings to have the same effect on your bottom line, focusing on savings innovations is a much better way to quickly increase your profit margins.
Case in point! By simplifying, consolidating and re-specifying their parts, Toyota saved one-trillion-yen or 30% of their procurement costs that went right to their bottom line. But just this year, Toyota’s Chairman decided, even though Toyota is the cost leader in the automotive industry, to chop off another trillion-yen because he wants to stay the cost leader over the next decade.
The Law Of Diminishing Returns
If you want to be smart about saving money, you need to understand the effects of “The Law of Diminishing Returns” on your organization’s efforts to save money. This law states that the more resources you expend on a specific target the quicker your overall return-on-investment will decline in effectiveness after a certain level of results have been achieved.
In fact, our studies show that organizations who are targeting their price oriented costs save less than 1% annually, while progressive organizations that target their products, services and technologies utilization, conformance to requirements and value mismatches are averaging 3%, 6% or even 9% savings annually.
What’s The Bottom Line? You need to refocus your efforts with new innovative savings solutions and eliminate what we call your “invisible costs”. As Jerry Sienfeld would say, “Not that there is anything wrong with ( price oriented savings)”, but you should only be spending 20% of your time on these price oriented projects to obtain acceptable ROIs for your organization, instead of 80% of your time and resources.
Breakthrough Savings Innovation
Is All About System
Amazon, Starbucks, Proctor and Gamble, E-Bay, WalMart and IBM don’t wait for new savings innovations to just happen willy-nilly, they have a management system in place to connect and develop new savings ideas by design. So, too, should your corporation have a system in place that holds fast to these five basic rules:
1. Risky Goals Matter
You must be able to think big and tackle risky goals that will set your corporation light-years apart from your competitors. For example, setting a financial goal, as one of our clients has, to have a 4% increase in their profit margin within two years. This will certainly stimulate your management team’s juices to start innovating, because very few corporations have ever managed to meet this goal.
2. Size Matters
When establishing teams to search for innovative savings ideas, Amazon’s President, Jeffrey Bezon says that, “To the degree that you can get people in teams small enough that they can be fed on two pizzas, you’ll get a lot more productivity” and savings ideas too! Large teams stifle innovation, hold back needed change and are risk adverse.
3. Discontent Matters
The most successful innovative organizations like General Electric have promoted a “culture of discontent” or a restless desire that there is always something better than what they are doing now. They are always striving to find faster, better, more cost-effective and smarter ways to revolutionize, reinvent, modernize, originate, transform, update, renovate, renew, retool and remodel their work and their products, services and technologies. You need to be discontent too!
4. Diversity Matters
Establishing homogeneous teams with like minded members won’t give you the diversity or heterogeneous atmosphere that is necessary to connect and develop new savings innovations. Successful savings innovation teams look like a well made “salad” with a mixture of dissimilar and varied ingredients served with an appetizing dressing.
5. Creative Friction Matters
Consensus is good when resolving routine operational problems or issues, but if you want to produce breakthrough innovative savings ideas you need “creative friction” to do so. By creative friction I mean employing new structures, new rules and new ways of doing things to stimulate original, inventive, and imaginative thinking patterns.
For example, one new rule that we bring into play with our client’s value teams is that their project managers can’t have any ownership on the savings project they have been assigned. This then virtually eliminates “we’ve always done it this way”. This rule, among many others that we establish for our client’s value teams, gets our client’s creative friction machine humming.
As you can see by these five basic rules for savings innovation, when it comes to building a “Savings Factory” having the desire to do so is only the starting point. What really works is having a defined management system that consistently produces unique and unusual savings ideas that produce huge savings for you.
Measure Almost Everything!
Decisions on where to find supply, purchase service or system savings opportunities are easy when you measure almost everything you do. Conversely, they are the most difficult and fraught with errors when you don’t have a “culture of data”!
For example, a client of ours called the other day to say that he thought that there was big savings in his boiler room chemicals because his chemical purchases had increased $129,000 over the last year. But when we benchmarked his chemicals usage we found that his actual utilization (adjusted by volume and intensity) saving opportunity was only $4,000 compared to his prior year’s usage.
This example should demonstrate why you need to measure almost everything so you won’t be mislead, misinformed or mistaken when making those big (and little) savings decisions. Otherwise, you will expend a lot of unnecessary energy and resources pursuing savings opportunities that don’t exist.
What this means to you is that you must have a culture of never-ending benchmarking so you can identify the best savings opportunities with the highest ROIs, before you ever consider assigning a value team to investigate any and all savings opportunities.
The one message that I’m hearing loud and clear from CEOs, COOs, and CFOs that I talk to almost every day is that they don’t have the time, money or resources to burn up on wasteful and inefficient exercises, or savings opportunities that are “dry holes”. Savings managers should hear this message from your bosses loud and clear!
Tearing Down Your Corporate
Walls, Pillars, and Silos
I have found that one of the critical tasks that a corporation’s executive management team has to do as a fundamental requirement to stimulate innovative savings is to tear down existing corporate walls, pillars and silos that have been holding back new innovative savings ideas for decades.
A case in point! I recently ran into this same challenge when we installed a Strategic Value Analysis® System (VAS) for one of our clients. We found out a month or so later that a senior management executive (who had gained power by isolating his division from the company’s four other divisions) had incorporated his old methods and practices into our new VAS system. This happened because his management was afraid to tell this executive that “the times are a changing” and he needed to abandon his old ways for the new ways that were being introduced by my company in order to produce better results. In time we won this executive over to our ways of thinking, but it would have been much better for his management to tear down his impregnable walls before we arrived on the scene.
If your corporation isn’t up to the challenge of tearing down your corporate walls, pillars and silos of resistance and opposition to change, then no innovative savings solutions are possible. Your corporation will just keep on operating with your old ways and old traditions that they have been employing for decades and hope that no one will notice that they are operating with aging, tired methods, practices and results.
Preparing the Way for Your Own “Savings Factory”
To achieve a state where savings innovation becomes a natural way for your organization to do business, you need to prepare your organization by:
1. Creating a Business Case for Change
I was just talking to a client of ours who is trying to convince his board of directors that they need to change their operating practices before their revenues shrink or dry up all together. I told my client that he needed to create a “business case” to convince his board that now is the time for change, not next month, not next quarter, not next year. I told him that a good theme for his presentation to his board would be, “It wasn’t raining when Noah built his ark”, to get his board focused on the future, not just today.
You need to do the same thing before you launch or re-launch your own Innovative Savings Program. Build a “business case” for change with your senior management or you will never get your program off the launching pad.
2. Developing a Shared Vision that’s Logical
You need to develop a mental picture or visualization for your senior management that is logical and makes sense to them if you want to have a sustainable Innovative Savings Program.
For example, you could ask them to imagine how it would to look 18 months from now when your value team(s) has “wrung the towel dry” in savings for your organization, then would hold those gains going forward! I’m sure that this could be developed into a shared vision for your organization without too much arm twisting.
3. Building your foundation on teamwork
Innovative savings is “everyone’s business”, not just a supply chain or a performance improvement manager’s business. Therefore, you must organize your department heads and managers in teams to make meaningful and significant savings happen. This then would give you a foundation of teamwork that would share the workload with many vs. just a few at your organization.
4. Arming your project managers with the Right Tools and Training to Manage Change
You wouldn’t send an army to fight a battle without the right equipment, tools and training. It’s the same with saving money! You don’t want to send your project managers into battle to save money without the right tools and training to manage change. If you do, you can expect a lot of lost battles because your department heads and managers will be better prepared to hold on to their old practices, than your team members are to fight change.
We are all are looking for that magic bullet that will make our saving program successful – right from the get go – but in reality there is no magic bullet. Just well thought-out strategies, tactics and techniques that will prepare your senior management and department heads and managers for the journey you will be taking them on when you launch or re-launch your own Innovative Savings Program.
Building A “Savings Factory”
Isn’t A Sometime Thing!
Building a “Savings Factory” at your corporation that can spew out thousand or even millions of dollars in savings for you every month, every quarter and every year, won’t just happen unless you have a defined management system in place to do so. Saving money isn’t a one time event, done in one or two initiatives every few years or even in a campaign, it is an ongoing management system to “wring the towel dry” on all of your expenses (salary and non-salary) every day, every week and every year. It is almost like a religion — you never stop believing that there is still more money to be saved in your corporation one bite at a time.
Now go make innovative savings happen!