Read a Plant--Fast

  • Reference: HBS-R0205H-E

  • Number of pages: 9

  • Geographic Setting: Austria

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2001

  • Source: HBSP (USA)

  • Type of Document: Article

  • Industry Setting: Automotive;Manufacturing;Professional, scientific & technical services

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In the early 1980s, visitors on an hour-long tour of a factory headed by Eugene Goodson reported surprisingly accurate details about the plant, its technology, and even its cost of sales. Meanwhile, the author's managers took part in short tours of a competitor's plants and learned next to nothing. With that, Goodson resolved to do better and, over time, developed a tool to assess a plant's strengths and weaknesses. The tool, the Rapid Plant Assessment (RPA) process, allows small tour teams to gauge factory's leanness accurately solely from visual cues and conversations with employees. Since 1998, Goodson, his colleagues, and his students have used the tool hundreds of times to evaluate their own plants, their competitors', and those of possible acquisition targets. At the heart of the RPA process are two assessment tools: the rating sheet and the questionnaire. The first contains 11 categories--including safety, scheduling, inventory, teamwork, and supply chain--that determine a plant's leanness. The second features 20 yes-or-no questions that focus thinking within the categories. The article explains how to rate a plant's practices in each category and how to choose team members. It also outlines how to use the tool to assess cost of sales. Even with varying levels of manufacturing experience, different teams touring the same plants have produced consistent results with this tool. It's easy to learn, quick to put into practice, and it produces results in a day or less.


Customer satisfaction Factories Inventory Materials management Operations management Plant management Production scheduling Safety Work environments