Operational excellence: The ability to see

“As you get further and further into your careers, that never happens. No one ever tells you what to do,” said Mark Desrochers. Desrochers, a Mines alumnus, is currently working as the Vice President of Operations at PrimeStar Solar, a company that manufactures solar panels based out of Arvada, Colorado. Desrochers presented a seminar titled “Operational Excellence – The Ability to See,” and shared with students and staff the goals of operations within a company and the benefits that stem from reaching those goals.

According to Desrochers, about 35% of personnel in a corporation are devoted to operations, and most operation standards today are based on the Toyota House of Quality. This house is founded on two bedrocks – standardization and leveled production. The two pillars in the house are the concept of “just in time,” and making problems visible.

Of the two bedrocks, standardization is most important. Desrochers emphasized the need to focus on visual control. A customer’s first impression of your company or factory is how it is presented. It must be clean and organized, with a place for everything and no unnecessary clutter. As for leveled production, this means spreading an even workload across all employees. The concept of “just in time” refers to the idea of only making what you need when you need it, no more and no less. If all of these ideas are followed, the last pillar (making problems visible) fosters an environment that allows workers to recognize when something goes wrong. The end goal, according to Desrochers, is that when a customer walks in, “I want them to give me their money.” Desrochers insisted that by following these easy standards, an operation will run smoothly, whether it is a McDonald’s or a solar panel factory.

He recapped the three most important things to consider in operations – organization, simplicity, and bringing in revenue. “Because what they’re really looking for are people to find the issues that they have, wherever they are, no matter what department, and fix those problems,” said Desrochers. The Toyota House of Quality enables employees and companies to do just that.

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