What company these days doesn’t claim to be committed to continuous improvement? At GlobalFlow, we systematically focus on taking practical steps to become better all the time. We have pledged to one another never to say that what we do is good enough; instead, we are always trying to find ways to do it better, faster and with less waste, improving the company’s operational efficiency. This reflects our drive to achieve quality – as individuals and as a team – and to provide value to our customers.
Continuous improvement happens in two main ways at GlobalFlow: informally and formally. Informally, the design or process ideas we generate from day to day that help make our products and services the best they can be, are incorporated into future iterations, so that a new idea today is part of our standard offering on the next similar project. That has led to a host of improvements over the years.
In addition, we have an internal Continuous Improvement Council, with representatives from each of our three business units, with the goal of improving our internal culture and employee brand. The teams get together for 10-15 minutes daily to focus not on what we’re doing right, but on inefficiencies, sources of friction, shortcomings or problems – things we need to do better, in order to generate ideas.
Generating ideas – One example from many: on a significant 12-item batch project occurring in 2013, welding of a man-way built into the vessels’ heads required welders to work in cramped positions on their knees for extended periods. It was possible, but slow and arduous. The improvement idea was to lift the heads by cable, allowing the work to take place in a standing position. The solution was not radical, but it improved efficiency and reduced the project’s turn-around time, directly benefiting the customer. This was the Continuous Improvement Council clearly demonstrating its purpose.
DIM initiative – An important continuous improvement initiative is GlobalFlow’s adoption of distributed inventory management (DIM). DIM facilitates using real-time costs in preparing quotes, efficient sourcing of parts from our inventory or vendors, detailed and real-time tracking of materials used and labour incurred, and immediate recording of change orders. DIM has improved estimating accuracy, the working efficiency of our field crews, response time to changing needs in the field, communication between GlobalFlow and the customer, and the customer’s oversight of costs incurred in field work.
Our vision of perfect equipment and services, perfectly executed with zero wasted effort is a “goal” that we may never achieve – but it is one that we always strive for. That’s how GlobalFlow drives continuous improvement.