By Gene Russell, Manex President & CEO

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, become more… then you are a leader.
– John Quincy Adams

What could be more appealing than an important word followed by the word “excellence”?  Sales excellence, financial excellence, academic excellence, and of course the always difficult word “operational” excellence. It’s messy. Manufacturing operations involve people, machines, money, lead times, customer expectations, procedures both documented and tribal. One of the things that stands out after eight years in my role leading manufacturing consulting at Manex is the word “leadership.”  Operational excellence and leadership is not new, and you’ve probably heard that operational excellence is indeed most dependent on leadership. You know it’s not easy. It is continuous improvement after all, not the flavor of the month. When Manex trains, implements and pushes your team in the right direction and then walks out the door “post-project” it’s all on you and your team. We know it isn’t easy, and there are investments in the near term and maintenance and improvements for the long term. However, our successful partners do exactly that – they keep up the effort, they call us when needed and they continue to engage us in both small and big ways. Often the biggest battle is against “this is the way we’ve always done it, what do these guys know.” Tribal knowledge that is in the end full of wasteful steps and/or material can be a killer. It’s a competitive world.

Weak leadership need not apply. It’s hard work and it takes years. It can be hard to confront management changes — both exits and entrances.  The patience required is real and often doesn’t make a dent in near term quarterly financials. The bottom line is that operational excellence is a career-long commitment. Actually, I am wrong. It should go beyond your career and everyone else’s career. It’s continuous.

In a previous, blog we outlined some of the principles of manufacturing and operational excellence:

  • Safety
  • Good Housekeeping (5S)
  • Formal Systems (Including ERP/MRP)
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Quality Systems (ISO/AS)
  • Delivery Performance (Client Expectations)
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Communications ( The power of visual, spoken and repetition)
  • Training
  • Floor-Led or Worker/Operator-Led Processes

These don’t change in a minimally or highly automated environment. Working on these principles everyday, improving them, training in them will yield impressive results. Empowering your team to not only understand them, but help lead them will blow you away. Put this list on your smartphone and on your whiteboard, corkboard or heck, get a tattoo. Manex has the financial resources, grants,  ETP funds and the people to assist you in your continuous improvement and manufacturing operational excellence journey.

Gene Russell is President and CEO of Manex and has over 30 years of senior executive strategic planning, operational management, and consulting experience in the manufacturing and technology sectors. With his extensive knowledge of manufacturing operations, he has developed and implemented key strategic initiatives for companies, allowing them to improve performance and achieve profitable growth. He can be reached at