Vital signs: Emergency medicine for distressed manufacturing sites

| McKinsey Direct

Before doctors perform surgery to treat serious injuries, they make sure the patient is stable. Clearing the airways, supporting breathing and circulation, and stopping bleeding are essential to prevent immediate risk to life and maximize the chance that subsequent interventions will succeed.

There are similarities when treating ailing companies. Around the world, the leaders of distressed manufacturing operations—those whose performance shortcomings extend beyond the financial to include health or safety risks to workers, customers, or the environment—face similar urgency. A few are defying the odds, rolling out radical operational improvement plans that not only dramatically reduce potential harm but also yield fitter, more flexible sites that can operate profitably over the long term.

In recognizing the limitations of traditional methods, these CEOs are taking a page from their counterparts in emergency medicine. By making adjustments based on the distressed site’s “vital signs,” leaders can make an uplift in performance easier to implement—and, even more important, to sustain.

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