“Spec Drift” Effects Business Efficiency
By Matthew Wright
Spec Drift – it sounds like something that goes on at a ski resort. However, Spec Drift is in fact the shifting of an element or elements from an intended product specification. Commonly, a spec can drift so much that the original intention is nowhere to be found. And, the hard reality is that in most cases this is something that happens daily.
One way to test if spec drift has occurred within your specification is to take the existing data set that is in your ERP or PLM system and give it to a new supplier to use. I can guarantee that you will see instant failures and experience facility and customer shut downs. Or take a physical sample and compare it to the existing data set stored and it’s likely you will find variances that can’t be explained.
How and why does this happen? Well, for too long the “fix it culture” has existed. A packaging vendor and a line manager will make tweaks to the product to make it run better or perform better. This change is then expected to move back up the channel to correct the original spec, but this rarely happens for numerous reasons. The vendor will make the changes in order to make the product and it becomes the most recent version.
Spec drift also commonly occurs in the engineering aspects of a package. An internal team will tweak the design in order to make the production line more efficient. However, this caused the original design intention to be lost. If the design gets moved to another machine or plant, this gets very complicated and compounds spec drift.
Now, factor in the complication of several vendors making changes in opposite directions and soon you have spec drift on top of spec drift. I am sure that those following along who do the work will agree with what’s been said. But, perhaps those that don’t touch it everyday might not buy in. If you are skeptical of this problem, it’s simple to verify by trying the exercise I mentioned above.
Even if you agree that spec drift does in fact happen, you may wonder why it’s such a problem. If you are concerned about efficiency and cost, then spec drift creates big issues. Spec drift kills your bottom line.
Ask yourself these questions: Are you paying for what you’re getting? Can you easily change your spec to be green or reduce cost? How much time is spent bidding or transitioning business? When failure hits, how can you find the cause? How do you hold your vendor base accountable? Wrong data causes bad decisions and impacts cost.
If you want to stomp out spec drift once and for all, the answer is investing in technology. You need to have a master spec stored in a simple, easy to use, centralized solution, which can accommodate alternate vendor specs without affecting the core spec. You must have automated audits that confirm the vendor and core spec are in fact the same. And when you or the vendors do audits, the data needs to be directly linked to the spec for historical analysis. When either the automated or manual entries point to a vendor or type of packaging that is at risk of Spec Drift, it automatically focuses intelligence on like items. Spec drift can quickly become a thing of the past and you can gain control immediately.
To eliminate spec drift, contact Specright today. Our specification management platform will ensure your specs remain accurate, removing all inefficiency and wasted costs.
Matthew Wright ([email protected]) is the Founder and CEO of Specright,
the spec system for the digital world. Matthew has over 25 years of experience in packaging and has held various operational and management roles with International Paper and Temple-Inland. While Vice President for Temple-Inland he ran a $500M business unit. A prior version of this post was published in May 2017.