March 11, 2010

Plan on the unexpected - Johnson and Johnson Edition

I took a group of MBA and M-Eng students to Johnson and Johnson Ortho Clinical Diagnostics in Rochester today.  This plant assembles large medical laboratory chemistry testing machines as well as the consumables products used in medical lab testing (chemicals, chemical slides).  The large testers are very complex and very expensive and so they are coupled with a service contract.  

The highlight of the trip for me was to see their "e-Connectivity™ Interactive System Management" or  predictive maintenance service system that track in real time newer models' operational metrics and can predict if a machine is on the verge of failing.  The machines are connected via a VPN to the Rochester plant where a team of service engineers and specialist sit in a war room with a huge interactive map with color coded flags represent nearly 2000 separate machines world wide.  If a flag is green or yellow there is not much to worry about, but if the flag turns to orange, the team can immediately create control charts of the past performance of the machine and identify when things started to slip.  They then deploy their field service technicians and peform preventive maintenance.  With this system in place J & J is able to know about a potential problem well before their customer recognizes it saving J & J the cost of emergency, high cost repair and saving their customer down time.  

These machines are very complicated and are a major capital investment for medical laboratories so J & J is trying to create an experience of reliability and a sort of  "we got your back" feeling that can set their customers at ease.  Also, J & J is doing a good job taking their learning from after-sales service and putting it into their manufacturing design, a sort of "Design for Serviceability" model or maybe a "Design for Predictive Maintenance" as they identify more and more of the top issues of break downs and find ways to proactively capture machine performance metrics that can be used to predict failure.

Adding a service to a manufactured good is becoming a source of competitive advantage. This sort of planning for lapses in reliability can add real value to a product and be difficult to replicate by competitors.  Plus, it means that you get to put up a war room in your manufacturing plant... cool...

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