Information & Training. | Lean Manufacturing. Just In Time Processing.
Improving a Process.A key function of management is continually improving process performance in order to deliver increasing levels of value. Value will vary depending on the customer and stakeholder. The customer purchasing a product or service will demand increasing levels of quality, reliability and benefits. Shareholders will demand increasing financial returns. Employees will seek increased levels of remuneration, job satisfaction, job security, career opportunities. The task of the manager, is to identify the stakeholders, understand their various value demands, prioritize these demands and seek to drive process improvement in order to satisfy these continuously changing demands.
Clearly there is no single approach that can be applied to drive improvement and equally as clear is that there will be no end state where the process has been fully optimized. In a competitive environment, improvement at a minimum needs to match competitors, ideally the rate of improvement needs to exceed any improvement achieved by competitor businesses.
1st step in improving process performance is to know the current situation.Every organization needs to perform two initial tasks, first complete an analysis of the existing operating environment and secondly seek to identify the potential changes which may arise that could impact on the organization. The widely applied format for such an exercise is to perform a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). By completing a SWOT analysis an organization should gain a solid understanding of its own internal strengths and weaknesses and obtain clear visibility of the opportunities and threats posed by the external environment. To provide genuine value, the SWOT analysis need to be comprehensive, must involve a range of divergent opinions, often sources of critical complaint can add value into the SWOT, there will need to be an awareness of developing threats in the wider environment and a level of ambition should feed into the identification of potential opportunities. The SWOT should go through a number of iterations, where new viewpoints are asked to assess the developing SWOT and to contribute new suggestions.
With the SWOT analysis completed, the strategic plan can be developed, or if one is already in place, then the strategic plan should be revisited and updated based on the SWOT outputs. The organization will now have a strategic development plan which will build on the strengths, mitigate the weaknesses, and point in the direction of the potential opportunities and develop defensive plans against the external threats.
Strategic plan approval and agreement.Once the strategic plan has been developed, it now needs stakeholder agreement. Stakeholders covers all affected groups who impact or can be impacted, for example customers, investors, employees, the community, regulators, the government, etc.. Management will need to identify and prioritize all stakeholders and ensure the strategic plan appropriately addresses each stakeholder. Without the relevant stakeholder agreement the plan will not succeed. Clearly, those aspects of a strategic plan will only be shared with stakeholders where it is appropriate to do so, in terms of confidentiality, etc..
Implementing those aspects of the plan directed towards improving process performance.Staff acceptance is critical to effective process improvement, this requires clear communication of the reasons and end objectives associated with any planned improvement process, also the potential impacts on staff must be outlined. All employees will need to understand the planned impact on the organization and the planned impact on themselves personally. Where impacts are not clearly understood resistance to change will tend to be high. Such resistance can be lowered, by outlining the benefits to the employees personally of the planned process improvements.
The strategic plan will need to outline the planned improvement models and methodologies to be promoted and implemented as part of the process improvement activity. There are a range of options ranging from driving quality improvement, implementing lean methodologies or for example the introduction of total quality management.
Depending on the technical competence of the staff, statistical improvement methodologies such as SPC or capability assessment may be introduced.
Many process improvement plans will seek to reduce costs via say focusing on quality costs, or increasing throughout, increasing equipment efficiency, reducing process variability, etc..
Determining the optimum approach to improving process performance.Management will need to determine the optimum approach, taking into account the skills, competences and degree of flexibility of its workforce. In many organizations there will already be process improvement efforts ongoing. The optimum approach may be to build on these activities by broadening the scope of improvement across the organization, or by developing staff skills in applying improvement methodologies. Where on-going process improvement is seen to be in-sufficient when compared to potential competitive threats in the external environment, then the introduction of new improvement approaches may be necessary.
Clearly, every organization is unique and will require a differing mix of methodologies to drive effective process improvement.
“Lean” & “Just-In-Time”.
The tools and techniques of Lean & JIT:
– Basic working practices
– Total Productive Maintenance
– Design for manufacture
– Set-up reduction
– Operations focus
– Total staff involvement
– Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
– Visual management
– Flow layout
– Just-In-Time Supply
– Pull scheduling & Push systems of control
– Kanban control
– 5S method of control
– Levelled scheduling
– Etc. Etc..
Baldridge Performance Excellence Program
European Foundation for Quality Management