Find Your Moonshot
In 1957 “Sputnik” not only launched itself into space but also, simultaneously, a space race. Several years later, American President John F Kennedy announced a seemingly impossible mission: landing Americans on the moon and bringing them back safely.
This combination of goal setting, vision, and leadership propelled America to the forefront of innumerable technologies and industries. Seizing on potentially dire conditions as a result of the Soviets’ surprise leap into space ahead of America, JFK tapped into that in a proactive and unparalleled manner.
With last week’s 47th anniversary of American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first step onto the lunar surface, it’s worth considering what moonshots can really be all about, and how you can have one also.
While there may not be a singular definition of a “moonshot,” it’s safe to say that it consists at least of a stretch goal (that really redefines “stretch”); addressing multiple problems at once; requiring different thinking; an unwillingness to fail. So what is your moonshot?
One of our clients is looking at production scenarios that would enable 10 to 20 times their current production capacity, with only a minor increase in budget and that would require no additional plant expansion. Automation plays a key role in that of course, reducing a lot of the variable expenses of manpower and improving the quality of safety conditions. These are consistent with their growth objectives, and protects working conditions. But that is just one piece of the puzzle.
These are not trivial nor incremental steps for this small to midsize manufacturer. To gain access to some of the large and highly competitive Asian markets in electronic components that they service, they need to be very adroit and agile with extremely quick response times and the capability to produce large volumes of their material. This demands that we go beyond out-of-the-box thinking; this requires something very, very different, and will mean testing all kinds of previous assumptions and conventional wisdom.
While they are somewhat flexible on schedule, the objectives are nonnegotiable; that is, being able to do up to 20 times the current production with only a 15% increase in the capital budget strains the imagination. And that’s kind of the point. They need to be able to break barriers that may be artificially created that are currently constraining them against their will. This doesn’t mean just adding some more lines of equipment. This means they’re going to tackle staffing questions, quality and inspection issues, supplier and logistics matters, and so much more. They are truly taking on a variety of problems all at once and setting a very high bar for success. By the way, “failure is not an option”; there is both faith and hope that this challenge can be met—it’s important, the employees and we are committed to making it happen, and the lack of a success would spell trouble in the long term.
Our role in this is to bring not only process and technology expertise, but also to provide additional novel ways of thinking. Having spent 30 years making their product in roughly the same fashion, they need to be able to look at all the different levers and switches that can be thrown in order to get some drastically different results. Like JFK’s 1961 moonshot challenge, it’s a high-stakes, high-risk, high-reward scenario. It’s not for the faint of heart and it will really test our ability to not only be technologically creative, but also to be engaged as a partner in developing these kind of “out there” solutions.
The big bonus for everybody comes when are able to get to the moon and back safely; that is, to be producing this material in volumes previously unimaginable, at dramatically lower unit cost, with greater safety protections, and improve customer service. This is a huge win and will position this customer of ours for major market success.
So what’s your moonshot? Who is your Neil Armstrong? Are you ready to even consider such a venture, and if so, how can Optimation help you imagine that and make it happen?
Take a look at the attached video, and see if it inspires you and/or reinforces your desire to shoot for the moon. Find Your Moonshot