Nothing hurts plans and processes like change. Well, there may be another one. That is the illusion of knowing the future. Having a forecast is almost always helpful. It is when you believe that it is the future that it becomes an issue. One area that is very relevant is in sales and production organizations is mix and volume, especially when looking near the end of a product life cycle or limited time offers.

Mix can always mess up the works for a site or sales organization. When mix changes in manufacturing, it can mean that the products that were easy and high margin are now difficult and though the margin may seem higher, the conversion cost per unit or raw material costs go up as well. Can Continuous Improvement, CI, help? Maybe but it will also need engineering, CapEx, and other support to protect the facility from the next “great idea.”

Volume is another item that CI will need more support. When volume is greater than 120%, there are certainly CI projects that can help, especially related to Standard Work and basic troubleshooting skills that can ramp up new employees quicker than traditional OJT. What happens when you are 80% of plan? That is more difficult. The business needs to be flexible to the change in volume and CI projects should keep employees finishing projects and making improvements as long as possible before “right sizing” the workforce. This takes some discipline and rules for making the right choice.

Continuous Improvement can help mitigate impacts of volume and mix but the process needs a commitment to the process and help along the way when the market or the business changes. Changes come in various forms but volume and mix can make or break a site or process. CI will need all the organizations resources to move fast enough to mitigate changes and support the process when things look the worst.