The Story Begins in a Biscuit Manufacturing Company in Kenya
Everyone has a story of how they were grossly underpaid when they were starting out in their careers.
Even those who started with 100K will tell you how they started life in a “small” 20K apartment in Kasarani. For that reason, I will also not be left behind.
My first job in my professional line was working in a local biscuit manufacturing company as a casual laborer. I got it thanks to a college mate who had earlier secured a job at the same company as a supervisor.
The first reporting day was a night shift. Since I was living in a single room mabati house almost at the heart of the CBD, I had no chance of even blinking during the day.
All I knew was I needed to show up with only my ID and call mum the next day to tell her that I have finally found a job. That is all every mum in the village wants to hear from their hustling kids anyway.
So, armed with my ID and a thick sweater, I was in for my first job with a pay that for now I will also call meager; just like anyone would call their first pay.
The curious me wanted to learn the inside workings of the Food Industry and that meant I stayed woke and observed.
You see those biscuits that always appear neatly arranged in cartons, packets and tins in supermarkets? Yes. That is what we did… manually.
Everyone thinks guys working in a food industry are never hungry; just the same way people wonder how guys with pot bellies can be hungry.
I have been in both situations, and I will say it is all a myth; but again I will not discuss pot bellies today! Haha.
So, what was my report for the first day in office? All I remember was moving from one conveyor belt to another, arranging biscuits in a routine that made me remember those High School teachers who always told us to choose our careers wisely!
By dawn, all I had was a five hundred note, a dizzy sleepy head and a hungry bloated stomach.
(My buddy Paul has never gotten over the bloated stomach part). Let’s just say I bowed out. Oh! Just for the record, I didn’t call mum the next day! End of rant…
Functional Organizational Structures
Anyway, how is this story even related to the title? You may ask. The thing is, I ignored the voices of career choice and moved on in the food industry, but now at slightly more senior levels.
Since those biscuit days, I have really disliked routine jobs. Unfortunately, that is the only thing that still drives the manufacturing industry in Kenya.
Most food manufacturing companies in Kenya are still stuck in the functional organizational structure, which really is the most basic and outdated structure to use in this dynamic globalized world.
|A Functional Organizational Structure
Having gone through a project management training, I believe it is high time the manufacturing sector goes through a paradigm shift and embrace the principles of project management in manufacturing.
Manufacturing is one of the Big 4 agenda which is again part of the driving force of the larger UN global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To keep the goals on track, the conversation on incorporating project management in manufacturing should be given more weight.
For a long time, manufacturing professionals have been receiving trainings on process improvement and quality such as Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, Kaizen, HACCP and the ISO certifications.
This has been well adopted by most companies but still we keep seeing incidents of poor product qualities in the market and food fraud. This clearly depicts a missing link in the value addition chain which could be the way the whole process is executed.
The Tripple Constraints
Project management relies entirely on intense planning and a well-designed Logical Framework.
To break away from the routine way and deliver quality products, management has to be familiar with the triple constraint quadrant that defines every project. These are Scope, Time, and Cost.
|The Tripple Constraints Quadrangle
The inter-relation between these three is the hallmark of successful project execution. A project is executed in a definite scope, definite time schedule and with a well-defined budget.
If these three things are put in focus, food manufacturing companies in Kenya can end up operating with the highest levels of efficiency never dreamt of.
Again, this will need an overhaul of the functional organizational structure to a Matrix structure.
|Matrix Organizational Structure
The strength of the matrix will depend on how an organization is willing to distribute power within its management.
Routine tasks should then be put on a Critical Path or Network diagram and the individual tasks broken down into a deliverable-oriented Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
|A Network Diagram
It Can be Done
To most food manufacturing companies in Kenya, this idea might look like building a spacecraft, but with proper and gradual introduction of project management in the manufacturing setup, this could be the only way to sustainable manufacturing.
Perhaps it could even solve the high employee turnover being blamed on “ungrateful and hard to please millennials.”
So, where does one need to start? Well, management commitment is always the first step. It is a paradigm shift, and that means a change of organization culture which almost always doesn’t go well with many.
It is the management’s duty to drive the company and give solutions where nothing seems unchangeable.
As one Henry Ford of Ford Motors once said; “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Well, he gave them faster and cheaper cars instead. That is how a paradigm shift is handled.