My advice for 2018

Don’t say the Q-word

Happy New Year!

I predict 2018 is going to be a simply awesome year for battery production. There are several technical and market convergences coming our way. There’ll be plenty to write about, that’s for sure …

What I’m looking forward to the most in the coming year is observing and learning from so many amazing people and innovative companies in our industry, which, by the way, has never been stronger. Nevertheless, the appetite for change has never been bigger. 

I’ll spare you the lengthy New Year’s resolutions and year-in-review-type stuff. I want to dive right into specifics.

The lead-acid battery industry is mature but still expanding. Like any mature industry, it’s competitive. There’s an overwhelming drive from management to keep the lines running, make them run faster, add more of them, and eliminate bottlenecks. Production is king.

Even though quality improvements can lead to massive financial and performance benefits, it’s still a challenge to get management on board. The mentality is to just make more of what we’re already making. After all, every battery made is being sold!

So how can we sell quality-focused projects to decision makers?

My advice: don’t. 

Forget about selling quality improvements and focus on projects that benefit production AND quality (as a bonus).

For example, new instruments for measurement and data collection, software, and automatic adjustment systems don’t directly make the lines run faster. But they do indirectly by reducing scrap, which in turn makes lines easier to run. And that means production levels will increase.

During a recent customer site visit, I was speaking with an engineer who told me “we’ve never run out of lead-oxide so quickly since adding the laser gauge”. Plowing through their lead-oxide supply was never the original intent. But it certainly pleased management (they were happy to boost lead-oxide supply if it meant higher output).

Even though it feels compelling to talk about quality benefits like better accuracy and improved performance, it can still be an uphill battle in today’s market. When management’s primary goal is increasing production, every decision will be scrutinized with that lens – even if your quality project offers a sizeable ROI. So rather than trying to ‘sell’ the quality benefits of an automatic gauging system, promote it as a tool to increase production.

Cheers, Steve