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The Big Picture: Sheep herded by consultants

One manufacturer launches a quality scheme, they all do. One manufacturer launches a CSI programme, they all do. One manufacturer launches a parts programme, they all do. It’s the same for training. Notice a trend?

OK, so I’ve slightly exaggerated for the sake of making a point, but there’s a reason why manufacturers seem to follow each other like sheep – they are being herded by consultants. Speak to any sizeable consultancy and they will proudly tell you how many car manufacturers they work with.

The problem is, there are only so many good ideas to go around and the experience from the motor industry suggests that these ideas eventually find their way around most manufacturers.

I’m not suggesting consultants can't be trusted, or that they share confidential information. I’m not even suggesting that they do a bad job, although some undoubtedly do.

But there's no law against giving different companies the same solutions to their problems, or suggesting the same ideas. And in that scenario, competitive advantage only lasts so long.

One retail group boss complained to me: "There’s not enough original thinking in this industry.

Because they all use the same consultants, the manufacturers are all doing the same thing. One tries something different and they all want to sign up."

So how do you break this cycle? It’s been said before, but is always worth repeating: if manufacturers listened more to their retailers, they’d pick up ways to improve business, operate more efficiently and attract more customers.

Talk to the people at the coal-face and rely less on consultants. You never know, it just might work.

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