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Commercial Tires

The ‘New’ Teamwork Approach to Problems

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Communication, teamwork, cooperation, and other such buzzwords of the MBA consultants aren’t news to most of us who have been involved in the truck tire industry for more than a few years.

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No doubt, these are all good words, even worthy goals in many instances. But I’ve long had a bit of a problem with the way these supposed ‘components of productivity enhancement’ are presented.

One of the cornerstones of good management is identifying goals and deploying available resources to achieve those goals in an efficient and timely manner. In the real world, we are sometimes forced to deal with employees, other departments or project partners who don’t function well as part of a team, don’t communicate openly unless the purpose is to advance their individual agenda, cooperate only to the extent they can relate success to their profitability, or exercise other partisan participation.

As a result, the larger project suffers in lost time, high expense or even failure. With intense financial pressure on operating expenses, competition that is increasingly global, a litigious society, and other such trends, better approaches to progress should be explored.

Our work world is changing. One consideration is that the hardware, software, administrative requirements and service conditions of commercial fleet and commercial tire dealer operations are increasingly complex. And this requires specialized knowledge. The days of one or a small handful of people knowing all there is have passed.

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Another fact is that impressive technology, problem solving, manufacturing, logistics and other capabilities exist, but are often outside of our immediate, or traditional, scope of reference. Non-traditional or otherwise innovative alliances for problem solving may lead to otherwise unachievable goals.

Here’s a good example of how an innovative alliance worked. Recently, four separate fleet truck component suppliers, working jointly under the banner of Wheel Torque Solutions, targeted several long-standing issues connected with the traditional wheel installation process for the waste hauler operations. For all reports, it appears the combined group succeeded beyond what any individual would have accomplished.

While lots of hard work was undoubtedly done by each of the participants, the key was selecting the right players, working toward a simple and common goal, replacing team members unable to perform, and combining state-of-art technology from diverse and specialized sources.

In the example cited above, the manufacturers of lug bolts, wheels, lug nuts, and fastening tools each provided upgrades critical to a system solution.

Build Your Own Team

Such teams can help commercial fleets and tire suppliers – dealers, manufacturers, retreaders – solve common problems. The first key is to identify improvement goals without the limitation of identified solutions. Of special concern should be avoiding systems, component groupings or process stages where a single improvement makes only slight progress, but really just moves the problem to the next weakest link in the chain.

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Also, avoid solutions that are expensive to the point of not providing payback in a reasonable time. Some good solutions, however, may have a higher upfront cost, which can be justified by simple reductions in labor, downtime or frequent replacement purchases.

Another key is to choose partners that are willing and motivated to benefit from a solution. Remember that no worthwhile partnership survives unless each of the players stands to benefit.

In short, each participant must bring something valuable to the table and should be justified in benefiting from the ultimate solution.

Another observation is to recognize that some valuable input may come from those closest to the problem, while other essential input may come from unexpected sources.

Improvements can be derived from evolutionary or totally innovative changes. The former tend to come from those most familiar with the product or process. This “kaizen” approach should be continuous, but caution avoid evolving the most perfect buggy whip when a new innovative product, process or system should be the real goal.

Good managers, regardless of affiliation, should oversee the progress of opportunities to improve our industry. Marshalling the best mix of talent and technology means looking inside and outside of traditional resources. A little imagination and follow-through with the right cooperative efforts can be very productive.       

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