Punchlist Zero recently met with Steve Tomlinson, the owner of SPT Consult (www.sptconsult.com). SPT Consult is a boutique consultancy house focused on assisting small to medium sized business in a rapid and cost effective manner. Below is our conversation, lightly edited for brevity.
Tell me about SPT. What made you decide to do your own practice?
ST: After spending over 35 years in operations and manufacturing management, I was convinced that simplicity, clarity and most importantly SPEED was overlooked in most organizations. I also saw small and medium sized manufacturing companies – not to mention their investors being overwhelmed and overlooked by consulting firms. I knew I had an approach that could quickly benefit these mid-sized manufacturers in a focused cost-effective way. I saw the need and felt the time was right to test the market.
I practice the tenants of simplicity, clarify, and speed in my practice and and surround myself with people that feel the same.
Speaking of associates, I see you have two: Jay Hazra and Chuck Rockwell. What do those guys bring to the table?
ST: They are great talents. As I just said, I have been fortunate to work with awesome people who not only bring different perspectives, but have taught me as well! I believe in great teams and Chuck and Jay fit that mold.
Jay solved many complex machining issues over the years and that’s his forte. He has had his own consulting business for more than 25 years. His practice helps automotive companies streamline engine, transmission, and chassis manufacturing. He has a PHD in Metallurgy and ran one of the largest cutting tool manufacturers in the world, but knows how to make complex issues simple. He is a guy that can easily relates to all levels in organizations.
Chuck is one of my oldest friends, from our long days at GE. With an industrial engineering background based in many different industries, he is truly a LEAN, Six Sigma and HSE champion. He is also an awesome teacher! In fact, he designed an operationally focused MBA course here in Houston. Chuck is great at getting companies to integrate continuous improvement and organizational design into their DNA.
For a medium sized manufacturer, I think we have it covered philosophically, technically, and from a cultural integration viewpoint!
What is different about you than the average consulting house?
ST: The big houses don’t have the right cost structure or even the interest in supporting the small and medium shops. We understand those business’ needs for quick and cost effective help. At SPT, we concentrate on “right sizing” our approach and are not interested in overselling these clients. We take extreme care to listen and be flexible, and our solutions are focused, fast, and of the highest quality. We provide a carefully cultivated “Rapid Plant Assessment” that allows clients to sustain and continue improvement long after our assignment is complete. It is the same approach that has helped us with private equity firms. We bring quick and honest reporting. We are seasoned. We communicate. We build and leave value. Our best customers are ones who call us back and refer us to their peers because of all of the above.
Ok, so I’m a newly minted manufacturing manager and I just took over a shop. What do I need to know?
ST: Listen. Communicate. Don’t waste your people’s time, especially in meetings! Use Visuals both on the floor and in meetings. Walk the floor, and take your team with you! Have the team listen to your shop and office people….they know the issues, and they need your help, not commands. Last of all, when you get input and suggestions, circle back around even when you would not implement the suggestion…TELL THEM WHY, and keep the dialogue going! Hold everyone on your team equally accountable.
Tell me about one of your most rewarding engagements.
ST: I try hard to become a team member, not a consultant. (in fact I hate that word!) The most rewarding ones are those where I must learn a new industry (like durable medical devices). In these, I bring my experiences and enjoy seeing the employees light up seeing that different perspective. It can be a real blast.
You have seen a lot of businesses. What separates the successful ones from the bad ones?
ST: Connection to customers, with total transparency. Engaged and ethical leaders. Team work, at all levels. Simplicity, and most of all: SPEED in decision making, feedback and corrective actions, even if it means shutting the line down.
SPT Consult is a Houston based operations and manufacturing consultancy with a particular focus on high quality, fast recommendations for the clients. Below is a sample report of their “Rapid Plant Assessment” report.