Australia to Asia Communication Gap

Language barriers between departments working for the same goal, cost companies millions of dollars, if not more per year. The latest example we had was with the same window company from the previous post. This company is working towards the exact same goal! And yet, the different departments that are separated by a border are inadvertently working against each other. This company was delayed by over 6 months because the window sashes were deemed incompatible with the assembly equipment in Asia. However, with the same equipment were able to be produced in Australia. The main problem? Communication.

This was a simple case of using phrases and not having them translate from English to Mandarin. The product engineers located in Melbourne, consistently used the phrase “too right” which to them meant definitely. However; when translated the translator heard the phrase as “to the right” in which case the equipment was set up orthogonal to the actual plane they were working on. This was discovered almost immediately, when the global product manager in Melbourne went to visit the production facilities in Asia.

Right and wrong don’t matter. Solving problems does.

The point of this story isn’t to criticize this company, which wishes to remain anonymous, but rather to bring to light how a simple miscommunication can cost companies massive sums of money, and arguably more importantly, time.

In the light of this realization the CEO of this company reached out to us, and requested us to restructure their teams in a way that will maximize the communication between the different branches, and promote competition, assign responsibility, and tools to dial in on the problems at hand.

The way these window contractors are set up after our reorganization, allows for the product engineers to draft product drawings and share them online with their Asian counter parts. They then hold bi-weekly meetings to iron out any kinks that either side can envision, or what is more likely, both business parties will agree on product changes that were over looked in the design phase. They are currently in the process of improving their prototyping equipment to precisely match the equipment that is used at their production site. The estimated cost is roughly the same as their previous 6 month delay, but will pay for itself as the team better learns to communicate with each other across borders, and across business units.

When both teams know what a parts specific roll is, it’s much easier to understand the purpose.

Further actions that are in development include the integration of the sales and marketing force with the design team in Australia. Currently, marketing is conducted solely from Germany, and are facing similar problems to the Asian plant. Upper management and the L2 level and above, is discussing how to reorganize to hold their employees in marketing accountable for the products that they say will sell and drive revenue. Similar techniques are being adopted to increase communication as well as drive a friendly competitive nature within the business in increase the relationship ties between each of the respective units. In the past, they saw a whole lot of finger pointing when it came to addressing quality complaints from customers. After the reorganization of the team and the implementation of bi-weekly meetings each business unit finds that it is easier to solve the problems by better understanding the design limitations of the products.

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