The Rolls-Royce has been described by automobile enthusiasts as the ultimate vehicle. Its ultra-luxury qualities are considered rarely matchable. Beyond its clear association with the rich and famous and its price estimated at about half a million dollars, the process of its manufacturing is exquisite and painstaking. The Rolls-Royce Phantom is reputed to take 2 months to assemble. While every stage of the car’s assembly is classic, some are particularly notable. For instance, its chassis made from 200 sections of extruded aluminium and 300 alloy parts is welded together with 2,000 welds by hand.
Painting the Phantom requires 22 steps, 5 layers and 45 kilogram of paint, and 7 days to make the body perfect. The surface finishing is manually done by a small team of smoothing experts in a process that takes up to 5 hours. The coach line, a stylistic pinstripe on an automobile’s bodywork which most manufacturers create using a thin vinyl tape, is hand painted by a single craftsman in a painstaking 3-hour process using a miniature squirrel-hair paintbrush.
The leather interior of the Phantom takes about 17 days to complete using 11 Grade-A bull hides. The 450 leather pieces are thoroughly screened to eliminate flaws such as mosquito bites, scars or stretch marks. The grille is polished for 5 hours before being mounted on the front end of the car. The coach of each Phantom is hand-built to reflect luxury. The Rolls-Royce Phantom can be generally described as the epitome of craftsmanship and incredible attention paid to details.
Now, imagine for a moment that a new Manager is appointed for the Rolls-Royce division of BMW and he decides that a 2-month production period is too much? What if he decides that 10 steps are good enough for the painting and there is no need to hand-paint the coach line? What if the completion of the interior is reduced to 7 day? That’s not too bad is it? After all some other companies do it for less. Would that really make a difference?
The process is what gave Rolls-Royce the name. If your process is excellent, your product will be exceptional. A shorter time is not always equal to efficiency. If the amount of time your output takes is not due to bureaucracy but quality control, it will pay off. It is not compulsory for a new leader to make changes if the existing process works. You may of course improve and perfect it. However, if you alter the process or reduce the time or people involved without a superior substitute, your product will lose its character and integrity. You may soon begin to live on past glory.