Neil, why is the CEO of Concorde onsite?” The client asked me with a smile. I could tell he genuinely wasn’t sure why I was there helping out with the Project of the client's office move so I quickly brought him up to speed.

Going ‘back to the shop floor’ is nothing new to me. I am at heart and always have been an engineer a fixer of technology and problems with a passion for improvement. I don’t sit in an ivory tower. I’m a do-er, so when the orders began to pile up over summer, I decided to take the opportunity to help out in the field and whilst I was there, have look at our processes, to see if they could be refined to give a better customer experience or make us more efficient.

The first project I took on was with Jaguar Landrover. I wanted to get involved in this one because it was a new technology for Concorde. I’m a bit of a geek at heart and wanted to work with the new IOT technology.

The tech itself sits alongside digital tooling on the production line and reports on the quality that’s been achieved. It can read barcodes and integrate with all the other systems a factory has in place. Should there be a quality control problem or a problem with the production line, it gives our client real-time and historical information to investigate whether it was a production line problem, a part problem, a human problem or a tooling problem. It’s allowing Jaguar Landrover to improve the quality of the build of their vehicles and increase efficiencies on the production line and they’re so happy with the system, they’ve recommended us to another major car manufacturer.

The experience was great. I got to engage with the customer on a daily basis, which helps to ensure that their expectations are exceeded. It also gave me the opportunity to see how we were operating – if there were any choke points and also to see the good side of what happens, where there were no blockers. It gave me a real insight into the micro-operation of how we interact with our customers.

I was relatively happy with what I saw but did spot several things we could do to improve our service. One example would be our internal communication. We’ll be moving more towards a system that allows quick burst questions and answers, rather than needing people to write long emails. This will speed up the processes and allow our staff to focus on what they’re onsite to do.

The second project I got involved with was a complete office move. It was very interesting to see – Moving office is a huge task and the client wasn’t perhaps as prepared as they could be for the move and office fit out, which led to a few issues during the project. For instance, we laid the office out for desks in banks of three as per the plan and they then decided at the last minute they wanted them in banks of four. We couldn’t lift the floor to change the configurations of power cables etc because the furniture had just put all over it.

That experience showed me that we need to think further about project management, and perhaps introduce some ways of helping the customer more in the run-up to an office move or large project. We already have a scope of work, which details what can be expected as part of a new job. But this experience showed me that perhaps there are occasions when we need a deeper, more granular understanding of customer responsibilities too.

We’re already looking at how I might act on this moving forwards, including making our sales team think in more of a 360 degree way. We want them checking in with customers but also our engineers as well, to find out if everything is going OK if they have everything they need and also if they’ve discovered any further opportunities whilst they’ve been on site.  

Overall, I really enjoyed my back to the floor experience. It took me back to my early days and was really valuable in showing what we were doing well, whilst highlighting a couple of things we could do differently moving forward. It certainly hasn’t put me off. Quite the opposite in fact – so don’t be surprised if you see me ‘on the shop floor’ again in the coming months. It really is a great way to help push your business forward.