Approaching limitless in a finite world
Conventional wisdom will tell you that considering the idea of unlimited anything and working towards it is a fool’s errand. Naturally, in a world of finite resources – whether they are materials or labour – such as that which we live in, focusing your energy to approach the concept of limitless sounds like nothing more than a pipe dream.
But what if I told you that you could get close?
Let’s unpack the operational transformation we are undergoing at Compugen, specifically our Richmond Hill configuration centre. To paint a picture, this year has seen quite the uptick in demand across our product and service portfolio. At 15,000 units per month, our 2022 production has been materially higher than last year and the year before. There has been growth in product sales, configuration, device repair, and our reuse business through Green4Good. We’re already experiencing 20% growth in medium- to high-complexity production, and based on new contracts, we’re about to see another 10%.
We define medium-complexity work as anything that takes between 15 minutes and two hours to complete, and high-complexity work as anything that takes beyond two hours. Advanced imaging Windows 11 with app layering onto a device would be an example of a medium-complexity job, and retail point-of-sale (POS) configuration and burn-in is something we would consider high complexity based on the amount of time and level of skill it takes to perform.
To respond to this demand and anticipate future growth, we’re implementing a model of unlimited production capacity, but not before painstakingly designing a management and scheduling model with scale and agility in mind. Seeing the tell-tale signs of a fast-growing market, we set out on a three-month operation to reconsider how we do things and find ways to do them faster, better, and more efficiently.
We explored which of our teams are involved in production and looked at how we could make the relationships between these departments seamless. It was our thinking that we needed to bring together these cross-functional teams – materials management, configuration, warehouse, logistics, deployment, sales and sales operations, and field services – in complete alignment to achieve our goal. In partnership with a third-party consultant and supply chain expert, we began to understand the problems and opportunities to get a full picture of what was happening and figure out ways we could improve. Diving into the process allowed us to build out metrics of the current state and set targets and operational improvements based on those metrics.
As our work at the configuration centre was essentially considered light manufacturing, we obtained insight from outsiders facing similar challenges and opportunities. These sources didn’t necessarily have to be IT operations for us to learn from them. In fact, our lessons came from other businesses outside of the tech space with similar production scheduling needs. If the same principles applied, it was valuable data for us to try and integrate into our methodology.
The result is a next-generation production management program that enables us to proactively schedule and manage work, provide status and real-time visibility to customers and internal stakeholders, predict upcoming production, and deliver consistent service to all customers. This unlimited production capacity model guides us in implementing the necessary changes for Compugen to cope with present and future demand.
Now onto the changes. At the Richmond Hill configuration centre, we added seven new workbenches and seven new staff, bringing the total up to 21 benches. We also introduced a second shift that alone gave us 70% more capacity. Furthermore, we acquired new warehouse space near the Compugen HQ. Together, these improvements more than doubled our production capacity in this facility, better positioning us to keep up with the growing demand for our services.
Beyond these operational upgrades, this endeavour has given us a playbook to work towards realizing Compugen’s full potential based on our existing assets, thereby maximizing our current footprint – which, as of right now, we are far from doing. Having engineered an agile and scalable conceptual framework, we foresee that we will be relying on this same playbook even when we start seeing production numbers several orders of magnitude larger than what they are now. This is as close as one can ever get to a model of unlimited production.