On Qualitydigest.com, Karla Raines describes her journey from the world of industrial engineering to the world of strategy consulting. Over an impressive career, she’s realized that without a compelling uniqueness, your company risks being essentially equivalent, or worse, misunderstood, by savvy customers. Confused or disinterested customers will pursue other options. It’s easier than ever to lose a customer to an unknown competitor that is a scroll, click, or keyword search away, thanks to the power of smartphones.
Total quality management (TQM) was in vogue during my undergraduate years and early career in industrial engineering. The United States was catching up to the Japanese in manufacturing production as their Toyota vehicles outperformed our Fords. A company couldn’t deliver a competitive product without an optimized manufacturing process. Strategy followed suit as companies invested in new capabilities. The race to data-driven everything was on.
My career began at Raytheon’s Waltham plant, where I supported manufacturing lines for U.S. Navy radar and communications systems. Remember the aircraft carrier in the original production of Top Gun? Can you see the radars moving to track the action? My production line manufactured the wiring harnesses to power those systems. After Raytheon, I supported F-16 fighter aircraft production. That mile-long factory was a sight to behold.
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