In my 20-year career since leaving undergraduate engineering school, I have run into various forms of the KISS principle many times. Whether in product design, communications or organizations, the KISS principle states that most things work best if they are kept simple. Therefore, simplicity should be a key goal of almost any activity.
In Celanese’s EVA Performance Polymers business, trying to make things simpler has been a key driver of nearly everything we do. When emerging from the tough economic conditions experienced in 2008 and 2009, we had grown our product portfolio to more than 100 base products serving more than 10 different end uses. While we prided ourselves on the flexibility of our operations and a history of innovative new products, the degree of complexity in our production cycle impacted our ability to be a reliable supplier. Additionally, to meet urgent customer needs we often added complexity to the system by breaking into the production plan – this only made the situation worse. We weren’t following the “keep it simple” rule.
Over the last 36 months, we have worked closely with our customers to identify areas where a more focused product line can add value for them and align better with our capabilities. While this has led to difficult conversations where our capabilities and customer needs were not aligned, the results of our efforts have been meaningful for the businesses and the customers we serve today. Today we have fewer offerings but are much more consistent in the products that remain. Additionally the effort has led us to simplify our ongoing innovation efforts to ensure that the new products we are bringing to market add value for both Celanese and our customers to justify our joint efforts.
While simplifying the complex is often a difficult task, the benefits of operating a more efficient and effective system will ultimately justify the effort more times than not.