Devil is in the execution

Execution is the buzzword for the initiative du jour . When all is said and done, it seems, all of the initiatives of the last several decades don't amount to much without execution. Well, duh! The interesting thing about all the attention to execution is that it's being hailed as some new discovery, some breakthrough in management.


Execution is the buzzword for the initiative du jour . When all is said and done, it seems, all of the initiatives of the last several decades don't amount to much without execution. Well, duh!

The interesting thing about all the attention to execution is that it's being hailed as some new discovery, some breakthrough in management. Heck, any high school coach in the past half century could have told us that success lies more in the execution of a play than in the plan of the play itself. It doesn't take a management guru to figure out that you win basketball games by shooting baskets. You know the old saw about success being 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. That's execution.

Now, this is not to detract from the work of Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, authors of the best-selling book, Execution: the Discipline of Getting Things Done . They do bring to the forefront the concept that execution is a discipline that can be specifically defined and learned. Bravo for that! But successful managers have intuitively known this all along.

I'm not real accomplished at execution myself. Just ask any of my staff members. Or, just ask my wife about the innumerable projects I've started and never finished. And then there's the book (or two) that I was always going to write. But this editorial isn't about me.

To see the results of some world-class execution, just look at the awards special report in this issue. Whether it's bringing a really useful product to market or setting the standards for reliability, these companies know how to execute.

It's been my privilege over the years to examine hundreds of excellent new products and dozens of outstanding industrial plants. The one common thread among them all is execution. No matter what new initiative is adopted or what management technique is involved, success always boils down to execution.

And the secret to this execution — or the devil — is in the details. Every award-winning plant I'm familiar with has been absolutely relentless in pursuing the details and tenacious in its follow through. These are key ingredients of execution.

It's easy to establish goals. It's easy to set up teams. It's easy to launch an initiative. It's easy to talk the talk.

It's tough to gather data, to document, to maintain the team meeting schedules, to keep plugging against inconvenience and adversity — in short, to execute the original commitment.

To be in a plant that executes well is to be inspired. The people feel useful and proud of their accomplishments. Frustration and grumbling are minimized. There's a sense of purpose and mission.

But the success is not in the strategy set forth by management, although that's important. The real success is in the down and dirty execution, the practice of making things happen at every level — especially the lowest levels.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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Machine Safety
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Research Analyst Blog
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Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
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