Tracking Infrastructure

What Precast Concrete Can Learn from Volkswagen

Posted by Jeff Pollock

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Oct 2, 2015 4:25:24 PM

Volkswagen_ScandalWhy should anyone in precast concrete take precious time to consider what they could learn from the recent Volkswagen scandal? Seems pretty obvious that you don't lie to regulators and customers. And, there is no real parallel technologically since (the last time you checked) there are no emissions issues with concrete after it is sold. This is all true but, as any practitioner of lean manufacturing knows, the real answer is below the surface and it generally takes asking "Why?" five times to get to the root cause.  In this case the result is profound.

Volkswagen has admitted to equipping its cars with sophisticated software that can detect when it is likely that the car is being inspected for emissions testing. When the software registers a likely test, the engines are operated at low power and performance in a manner that complies with EPA emissions standards. Otherwise the cars emit up to 40x the amount of nitrogen oxide pollutants allowed!

Let's apply the "5 Why's" of lean practices here to understand what really drove Volkswagen to make such a foolish misstep as to defraud the US government in such a blatant manner:

1. Why were they willing to take such a big risk?

They wanted to make it easier for their cars to pass emissions tests.

2. Why did they want it to be easier for their cars to pass emissions tests?

They wanted to sell more cars, more easily.

3. Why did they want to sell more cars, more easily?

They wanted to grow market share, even if at the expense of their regulatory obligations.

4. Why were they willing to grow market share without concern for regulatory obligations?

Because they wanted to become the world's largest auto manufacturer by 2017.

5. Why did they want to become the world's largest auto manufacturer by 2017?

Because this was the goal they set publicly a few years ago.

So, the root cause of their willingness to defraud the US government (and their own customers) lies in the nature of the goal that they set. The goal was all about Volkswagen and had nothing to do with their customers.

Had they applied lean practices, their goal would have emanated from value stream mapping, a process in which they would have outlined all of their business activities and focused only on those that add value to the customer. Had lean manufacturing been at the core of the Volkswagen culture, the very notion of this scheme would never have occurred to any manager.

So, the lesson for precast concrete... and the entire construction industry for that matter... is the same. Make your customer's interests your priority and the rest will follow. This is sometimes hard when margins are tight and business practices require change, but it always pays. Our post of a few months ago, Create Happier Customers with Lean Practices, speaks to this a bit more directly. Those vendors that help solve these problems with value-added services will be rewarded handsomely with customer loyalty and better pricing.

About Idencia

Our purpose at Idencia is to offer infrastructure asset tracking solutions that improve productivity throughout the infrastructure value chain.. to create lean infrastructure. Our subscription offering applies RFID tracking to infrastructure products from the time of manufacture through end-of-life. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time. If you would like to learn how Idencia can help your company, we invite you to download a copy of our Idencia Primer ebook.


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Topics: Market Insights

About this blog

Tracking Infrastructure is a blog about innovation in the manufacture, construction and management of infrastructure.

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