Only the Best Will

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Brady Corporation CEO Katherine Hudson knew that before she overhauled the "high performance" label-making company she had to look at the people who ran the operation first.


Only the Best Will Do

But getting Eclipse off the ground would take no nonsense. In November, senior members of the business board were called back to the American Club in Kohler, to formally launch the Eclipse project and to start its most important phase—picking the best process-change managers in the company.

That effort—division managers relinquishing their best people for the indefinite future of the project—was one of the hardest things to do, says Hudson. "If it didn't hurt to give up these people, then we probably were not getting the right people for the project."

Eventually, 35 individuals were handpicked to work on six Eclipse groups: New Product Development, Customer Value Creation (order generation), Order to Cash efficiency, Strategic Planning, Finance and Change Management.

Among the new leaders included were Chris McElfresh, the global order-to-cash process leader; Maureen Casey, global process leader for training; Elizabeth Belmonte, global leader for customer value creation; and Linda Dean, global leader for new product development. Later, David Gohlke joined the team as launch director, the guy in charge of keeping Eclipse on schedule. He was previously director of knowledge management for Brady. John Cullen, process leader for customer and order acquisition, was among the first picked—and the one who came up with the Eclipse acronym.

They opened office space in Milwaukee, a few miles from Brady's headquarters, and set to work establishing some clear-cut goals—most of them financial, and some of them practical.

For instance, converting orders to cash meant reducing the number of days worth of sales that, on average, remained to be collected to 42 days, from 54.

And sights would be set high. The company was only "turning" inventory into sales every three months, or 4.39 times a year. "The team suggested that we double them from 4 to 8," says Hudson. "I said that wasn't enough." The company settled on 15 turns a year—meaning anything that came out of one of its plants would be turned into a sale in less than a month.

Among the toughest goals was conducting 50% of all sales electronically by 2003. So far, only 15% of all the company's sales are now conducted over the Web, the company says.

That 50%-online goal signals, though, how much Brady wants to save money and improve operations through the use of the Internet and information systems. The company also is expanding its use of the Net to help deal with suppliers more easily, to standardize processes through its many divisions, to bring consistency to pricing and delivery times, and, critically, to find ways to encourage sales of different products to the same customer, from different divisions.

This article was originally published on 2002-05-15
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