Lean Tech: Episode 1

By Bob Argyle
09 Oct 20

 


Transcript from the first episode of Leading2Lean’s series; Lean Tech. This episode featured Tyler Whitaker (Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operating Officer of L2L) and Bob Argyle (Chief Customer Officer of L2L) discussing the challenge of integrating IT and operations. 


Tyler Whitaker

Hello, and welcome to the Leading2Lean Lean Tech podcast. My name is Tyler Whitaker. I am the Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operating Officer for Leading2Lean and with me today is my partner in crime Bob Argyle.


Bob Argyle

Hey, Tyler, how's it going?


Tyler Whitaker

Bob is our Chief Customer Officer at Leading2Lean and has a wealth of knowledge on the manufacturing side. Today, I think we wanted to talk about a topic that's near and dear to your heart, Bob.


Bob Argyle 

What I wanted to talk about today, Tyler, with you is just the battle that goes on in every manufacturing company, a battle that I fought for many years being on the operations side of the business. That topic is the battle between IT and operations.


Tyler Whitaker 

What do you mean? They don't get along? Is that what you are telling me?


Bob Argyle 

They do sometimes, but it just feels like they're always working against each other. In my experience, I always wondered what they were working on, for one thing.


Tyler Whitaker

Well, they're working on the most important things in the business, right?


Bob Argyle 

That's what they say. But to me, the most important thing to the business is getting parts out of the production line. Because sometimes the feeling I had was that the IT department thought we were an IT company and they forgot that it's parts off the production line that pays the bills. So it just felt like we're always working against each other and the things that I needed. We always had a list that we had to get all our stuff on and prioritize it. My stuff was just always at the bottom of the list. And it was just so frustrating. I'm sure they were frustrated too. It did create a lot of finger pointing. And it really was kind of a battle.


Tyler Whitaker

So what are you talking about specifically? I mean, that's, that's pretty general. As an IT guy, I'm used to hearing complaints a lot, so be specific.


Bob Argyle 

So I will be specific. So to start with it felt like a lot of the products or the projects that IT worked on, really didn't benefit the operation side a whole lot. And it felt like the things that we needed that and we felt like would benefit us, were always the lowest priority. So you know, ERP stuff, I know it's important, but they would work on that, they did work on some MES stuff and things like that for us. But even in those cases, whether it was ERP or MES, the things that made it to the production floor were cumbersome, they were difficult to use, and it almost felt like they were trying to make our life harder rather than easier. So it really felt like we weren't working together towards a common goal.


Tyler Whitaker

Well, that's, that's interesting, because from an IT perspective, we always come back to requirements. Were you able to give them clear definitions of what you needed?


Bob Argyle  

You know, to be honest, probably not. It was hard and in our environment one of the challenges that I had is that the environment was constantly changing and evolving. So I understand that, I may be passionately asking for something today. But tomorrow, my passion may have shifted, because things are constantly evolving and changing and shifting. And that's one of my frustrations, the systems that IT typically worked on for us were so rigid and cumbersome, that it was hard to be flexible within those systems. And I know the IT guys used to always say "use the system", but it was it was so painful and difficult and it didn't fit the process that we would resort to using whiteboards and Excel spreadsheets, and then we would get clever and we'd figure out ways to get the data into the system. But it wasn't the way I think the IT guys intended on getting in the system. I think the intention was that we would use the software but we never did, we always used some other means to capture the data because it didn't fit the process.


Tyler Whitaker

I think what you're saying is that your requirements change all the time. I mean, that's that's the indictment that I see from an IT perspective is, "hey, if you can't give me clear requirements, and you're constantly changing your mind on what you need to do, like, of course I can't deliver a good solution."


Bob Argyle  

Well, I'm not saying everything changes, but the reality is a lot of things in the production environment are changing. We get things thrown at us. I don't know what I'm coming into tomorrow when I walk in and there's a whole new problem presented to us, and we've got to deal with it. And we got to come up with a solution. And we've got to work around that, and work through it.  I actually had a gentleman in it that I worked with that I have a lot of respect for, that used to say, and this made a lot of sense to me, "the process shouldn't have to conform to the software, the software should be able to conform to the process". And that was my biggest issue with the systems we had. Besides the fact that like I said earlier, for a lot of the little things that I needed I thought, "hey, you should be able to knock this out in a few hours''. Those things never made it to the top of the priority list. So they never got worked on. So I know, guys hate it. But we would create Access databases, personally, I felt like we should just have our own IT people like every operations guy should have 2 IT people working for him and just disband that central IT organization.


Tyler Whitaker  

Well, you know why IT doesn't like that, right? They're held responsible for the security and the information technology standards compliance of the organization. And if you're off building Access databases, and Excel spreadsheets, that data is locked away, it doesn't conform to a standard. If you're building your own little applications, or are just grabbing solutions off the internet, we can't guarantee our security compliance. And so from a Sarbanes Oxley or CFR 21, Part 11; we can't keep you in the safe sandbox of compliance.


Bob Argyle 

Well make the sandbox bigger and more flexible, and we'll stay in it.


Tyler Whitaker  

Exactly. I mean, that's the challenge I see with most IT groups is that they've got a different mandate. They've got a compliance mandate that they have to adhere to and they have a corporate standards mandate. And frankly it's hard to adjust as quickly as the shop floor needs. Given that level of rigor, does that make sense?


Bob Argyle  

I understand because I live it every day, I have to adjust and it's painful and it's tough.


Tyler Whitaker  

So what, in your mind, is the solution here? How are customers solving this solution and problem today?


Bob Argyle

Well, I think the solution is that IT departments need to, first off, they need to align themselves with operations a little bit better. And we do have some customers that do that. We have one customer that is their IT department. When we first met with them, the first thing they said was that we work for operations. We understand that operations is where the money is made. And I think they have a really good relationship. I think that's why we work with them and why they seen our tool is such a valuable tool to them, because they could see that the other tools they used in the past, really constrained the operations side of it, and they needed tools that are more flexible and easier for the operations side to do the things that they need to do, that may not be so critical. I feel like IT thinks when you say "security control", they have to control every little detail of it. And I think they've got to control the big picture, there's got to be an umbrella over things that make sure that there's no security issues or make sure that across the enterprise, we're kind of staying in step, but down into the weeds of things, operations needs tools that they can flex and they can adapt to, and they can create processes around easily and quickly as the process and the requirements and the customer's needs change.


Tyler Whitaker 

Yeah, I mean, that makes a ton of sense to me, as well. From an IT perspective, either we need more resources...


Bob Argyle  

I've said before that we need to hire more IT people, whatever we have to do.


Tyler Whitaker

in manufacturing, you think "more resources always equates to better response time", right? Or so we think in theory, but maybe there's a solution here with better tools.


Bob Argyle 

There are better tools. That's what we do every day and that's I think why we're seeing so much success, because especially with the operations layer and the shop floor layers, those folks instantly see what we bring to the table. It's not always as clear to the IT department in other areas, but it does definitely resonate at the operations level. And it's definitely the reason why our customers are making major leaps and bounds, improvement, and progress. To be honest with you, what I'm hearing from our customers is, it has freed up the IT department to do the things they really probably need to be doing. Like you're talking about,  working on ERP, working on security, working on standards, and the higher level business


Tyler Whitaker 

This is really good discussion, Bob, and I appreciate you talking with me about it. I think this is a problem that exists in every manufacturer out there. There's always too many projects to do, and the speed at which manufacturing runs on a daily basis is unparalleled in other industries, really. So being able to be adaptable and flexible, I think is really the key.


Bob Argyle

Well, and especially in an environment where manufacturing is a competitive space,  sometimes you're competing internally with your own plants within your own enterprise. You're definitely competing with your competition, and you're competing with other countries. I mean, it's a global market now. So the competition's heavy, and so to be able to drive continuous improvement, to your point, there's got to be a solution that helps get things there at a lower cost. Something that is less risk, and it's a lot easier to deploy and it doesn't require the addition of IT resources. In fact, it should be a tool that requires less resources. So we can be more competitive.


Tyler Whitaker

Yeah, I mean, I think you're singing in our tune. I think that's what Leading2Lean is all about. Well, this has been a good discussion. Maybe we need to do a follow up discussion here and talk a little bit more about what we're talking about. Why it needs to be more flexible, what the solution needs to look like, and how people could actually move forward with this.


Bob Argyle 

Yeah, I totally agree.


Tyler Whitaker 

Well thanks Bob. Hey, thanks again for joining us on Lean Tech. Please take a minute to hit the like and subscribe buttons, because that really does help our channel out. If there's topics you'd like us to cover in a future episode, leave that in the comments below as well. And don't forget to click that bell icon so that you're notified when we produce new content. Thanks again. We'll see you next time.

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