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“Perception is reality.”
—Tom Peters, best-selling author
This quote from my favorite business author, Tom Peters, hangs in my office as a constant reminder. The title “world-class” rings hollow if you are the only one saying it about your organization.
How many times do we see a company promoting themselves as being a world-class manufacturer of PCBs, or as having been voted best-in-class at customer service? Who voted? Again, we are faced with the truth in advertising dilemma. It’s a Dilbert cartoon in the making: A group of senior managers get together and declare “you know, we do a pretty respectable job in our business, let’s begin calling ourselves world-class.”
What does it mean to be world-class? Breaking it down into a single bullet point, it means being on par with the top performers globally in your chosen craft. There are, of course, numerous quantitative metrics used to measure this, such as turnover, quality certifications, productivity, and the requisite financial ratios. But perhaps the most important metric is qualitative: How do your customers think you are doing?
You may in fact be a world-class manufacturer, but if your customers don’t agree it doesn’t really matter. It is surprising to find the high percentage of PCB organizations that have not formally incorporated an annual benchmark survey into their continuous improvement process. True world-class companies are no longer guessing what satisfies their customers; they are actively soliciting feedback and listening to their customers’ expectations. A recent poll of over 2100 manufacturing respondents conducted by Industry Week Census supports this fact. It showed that 47% of respondents who say they’ve achieved a high level of world-class compliance use customer-satisfaction surveys extensively, while the proportion of peers claiming “no progress” in this area show only 6.4% as using them.
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Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of The PCB Magazine.