Politically Free MMP: Management, Marketing and Productivity (MMP) Are at the Heart of Every Successful Manufacturing Enterprise. Tom McBrearty, Christchurch-Based Business Consultant and New Zealand Institute of Management Board Member, Explains Why by Telling a Very Personal Story

By McBrearty, Tom | New Zealand Management, May 2008 | Go to article overview

Politically Free MMP: Management, Marketing and Productivity (MMP) Are at the Heart of Every Successful Manufacturing Enterprise. Tom McBrearty, Christchurch-Based Business Consultant and New Zealand Institute of Management Board Member, Explains Why by Telling a Very Personal Story


McBrearty, Tom, New Zealand Management


"We have to do something about our marketing to increase sales and market share." It is a constant theme that runs through our interviews with potential manufacturing clients. Fair comment, you might say. But is it?

Increasing sales and market share needs more than a creative marketing approach and a committed sales team. Our experience of the last 10 years has us developing a closer alignment between the company, its manufacturing system or process and the retailer who is key to the manufacturer's sales success. This is a story about one of them.

It began three years ago when, yet again, we heard the refrain. The client prospect was producing quality local clothing. It had a strong national presence, high brand recognition and loyal end-users. Better marketing, they thought, was the logical next step toward a higher market profile and increased sales both at home and in Australia which, for them, was a small but significant market. Marketing, at least in isolation, was not the answer, we said. First of all, we needed better marketing understanding. What, exactly, did customers really think about the company?

Initial research, particularly with retailers, revealed an interesting story. Retailers and buyers were positive about the quality, styles and even the pricing of the products. "If we had other products with such brand loyalty we would be delighted," said the retailers. "BUT ... "

The "but" was constant and emerged in conversation without prompting.

"But" was all about delivery or rather, the lack of it.

The company had a quality product that was in demand, well respected and enjoyed excellent price points that appealed to retailers' customers. The problem, at least in the retailers' eyes, was not marketing. It was instead the company's inability to deliver the goods on time, of the quality required and on time for the season.

The company had a history of late delivery which, in turn, caused retailer frustration, disappointment and even a reluctance to order.

Telling the client what their customers had to say was easy. Getting our new client to take an in-depth and honest look at the way the company operated was harder. That required the trust of all staff, a commitment by management to listen and a willingness to change attitudes and processes--all of which would take time.

But the process began. Staff and production management were interviewed over several weeks, comments and opinions were collated and a story about the company and its productivity was compiled. It was a tale of pride, commitment, frustration and short-term solutions rather than long-term planning and discipline.

Employees were proud of the company, its product and its owner. They were also committed but this was not always recognised by the several layers of management and sales staff. There was frustration at almost every level, from factory floor to the owner's office door.

Productivity was inconsistent and interrupted by "urgent" production demands from distressed clients who bent the ears of sales managers and, in some cases, the owner. Solutions were based on fixing the now, rather than stepping back and examining the processes.

We started to introduce words like planning, trust and teams. Managers were asked to "bring solutions not problems" and to embrace the phrase "delegation not abdication".

The process of planning for the new season's fashions began. …

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Politically Free MMP: Management, Marketing and Productivity (MMP) Are at the Heart of Every Successful Manufacturing Enterprise. Tom McBrearty, Christchurch-Based Business Consultant and New Zealand Institute of Management Board Member, Explains Why by Telling a Very Personal Story
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