INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Sometimes all you need is a fresh pair of eyes. When a group of operations managers from several Indianapolis businesses get together every few weeks, they share advice with peers in non-competing markets. This group is called the Paradigm Network, led by Mark Ippolito, senior lecturer in operations management at Kelley School of Business Indianapolis.
The Paradigm Network recently visited Pratt Visual Solutions, a retail graphics firm located on Indianapolis’ east side. The group toured the plant with Teddie Linder, Pratt’s director of operations. Afterward, they sat down to discuss ways to improve efficiency. One visitor suggested ergonomic enhancements to improve the plant layout and another offered a faster way to package outgoing orders; suggestions Linder will consider.
“I go out and look at those lines every day but it's just a different set of eyes that aren’t emotionally attached to what's going on,” remarked Linder. “You can receive all kinds of ideas for improvement out of that; small things you can turn into a real advancement for the business.”
Ippolito has facilitated Paradigm Network events in some form since its beginning in Indianapolis in 1989. The focus is improving the operations aspects of manufacturing and distribution.
“The main benefit is that the senior operations managers get to talk to their peers at non-competing companies,” explained Ippolito. “That’s key. I don’t bring people in that are competitors because I want them to talk freely about what they are doing, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what problems they encounter. Sometimes textbooks make things look a little too easy- you do A, B, C; you get D. Well, in an ideal world that may happen. The reality is always a bit messier.”
Paradigm consists of operations, purchasing, production and supply chain managers from several local companies including Adidas, Peerless Pump, Lean Frontiers, Fiserv and Wolfe & Swickard Machine Co. Every few weeks, a Paradigm member will host the network at his or her facility, offering a tour and roundtable discussion. Bob Thompson is a retired general manager at Tube Processing Corporation and a founding member of Paradigm.
“Everyone sitting around this table has the same problems,” said Thompson. “And that is, how do you get the most out of your workforce? The advice is applicable to different kinds of industry. We encourage each other. Believe in yourself and never give up. Take the term give up out of your vocabulary.”
“It's networking and relatively inexpensive consulting,” added Ken Jones, a senior lecturer of marketing and operations at Indiana State University. “You can't fundamentally change your business over lunch, but a seed gets planted and blossoms over time.”
The members of Paradigm Network say each meeting is a lesson in best practices across light manufacturing in Central Indiana. Much like the term paradigm, the members of this network are looking for the best pattern possible for their operations.
“Everyone is looking for incremental changes for continuous improvement,” said Ippolito. “Most businesses are doing most things right, but those small changes add up. And that is what keeps you ahead of the game.”