Business Process Improvement

Process Improvement – Mapping

In order to improve any operational process and provide greater customer value, business processes first needs to be understood, and the easiest way to understand a process is by drawing or mapping it. Mapping forms the basis of all process improvement as it shows:

  • The current state i.e. “this is how we presently do it”
  • The link between information and material flow
  • Mapping visually describes your facility…..a picture is worth a thousand words
  • Highlights process steps and identifies areas of waste. Remember the general rule: “The more process steps, the more waste a process has”
  • Supports team-based improvement
  • Provides a model and common language for Continuous Improvement (CI).

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Business Process Improvement

Process Improvement – Essential Steps

Improving business processes requires companies to first understand their existing processes. While this sounds obvious, senior management will often stipulate that a particular process or series of processes need to be improved based upon their understanding of these processes. However, their understanding and the reality at the coal-face, are more often than not, miles apart.

In order to improve any operational process and provide greater customer value, the process first needs to be understood, and the easiest way to understand a process is by drawing or mapping it. So, step 1 is to map the existing process and gain consensus that “this is how we do it”, i.e. the “current” state. Once you’ve mapped your “current” state, it is essential to then map your “future” and “ideal” states, where the former is how you envisage the revised processes to be in the short to medium term. The “ideal” represents the ultimate long-term goal (perfection), which should serve as a guide or reminder for future improvement efforts. Read more

Business Process Improvement

Office Wastes

While much has been said and written about Lean and the 7-Wastes within a manufacturing environment, it is in the office of professional service functions where we often see huge amounts of waste, particularly within the accounting, legal, design and consulting engineering sectors. Below are some of the typical ‘Office Wastes’ that we encounter.

  • Sorting and searching – This applies in all environments, even at home. How much time do you waste looking for files, or information, or tools or items? Although we like to talk about the ‘paperless office’, we know that this is far from reality. Many organisations generate “paper”, for e.g. the medical and legal professions, or any regulatory bodies or departments. How do you track these documents and know, instantly, where anything is? If you manufacture anything, where and how do you track the correct revision numbers?

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Lean and Sigma 6

LEAN and 6 SIGMA – Do they work together?

During the last two decades much has been written about Lean and 6 Sigma, the fundamental premise of the two approaches respectively being the elimination of waste and the reduction of variation. Many large companies have both Lean and 6 Sigma programs that have been branded Lean 6 Sigma, Power Lean, Lean Sigma, Quick Sigma to name but a few. In some cases, companies are using Lean to remove waste from non-value adding activities and 6 Sigma to control the variation within the value-adding portion of the process. The integration of Lean and 6 Sigma has become fashionable, but what are the real differences and can they really work together? Read more

Quality management consultants

The Changing Quality Management System Standard ISO 9001

The Quality Management System Standard ISO 9001 is changing this Year, how can you prepare?

ISO 9001 (Quality Management Systems – Requirements) is currently under review. The Final Draft of the Standard is now available for purchase and the upgraded version of the new Standard is scheduled for release in September 2015.

WHY?

All ISO Standards are reviewed periodically to ensure that they are current and relevant in the marketplace. ISO 9001 was previously reviewed in 2000 and 2008. The new 2015 version however will introduce a framework that will be common to other management system standards as they are reviewed and released. Read more

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LEAN Misconceptions – Only for ‘Big’ Organisations

LEAN Misconceptions – Part 5

The Lean Philosophy has been around for many years, but unfortunately it is not always understood, predominantly because Lean is thought to be:

  1. A cost reduction exercise
  2. A process to reduce the number of employees
  3. Only applicable to ‘manufacturing’ organisations
  4. An ‘operational’ issue that can be solved by the ‘operations people’
  5. Only for ‘big’ organisations.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

In this series of articles, I will discuss each of these misconceptions and demonstrate that Lean is about business; any and every business. A Lean business strives to understand what the customer really values, and then maximises customer value. Lean is not a short-term fad, but a long-term commitment towards continual improvement that involves every system, every process, every department and every employee within the organisation, irrespective of it’s size.

Misconception # 5: Lean is only for ‘big’ organisations

Lean is applicable in EVERY organisation as long as there is an understanding that every function or service provided by any person, department or organisation is a process that can be documented, standardised, and most importantly, improved. Improving any process necessitates the identification of waste within the process, where waste is defined as any activity that adds no value as seen from the customer’s perspective, i.e. the extra (wasted) time, labour and materials spent producing the product or service. Using the above premise and the fact that no business process is waste-free, Lean can be implemented in any environment, as every business process can be analysed and improved. Read more

Business Process Improvement

LEAN Misconceptions – Operational Issues

LEAN Misconceptions – Part 4

The Lean Philosophy has been around for many years, but unfortunately it is not always understood, predominantly because Lean is thought to be:

  1. A cost reduction exercise
  2. A process to reduce the number of employees
  3. Only applicable to ‘manufacturing’ organisations
  4. An ‘operational’ issue that can be solved by the ‘operations people’
  5. Only for ‘big’ organisations.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

In this series of articles, I will discuss each of these misconceptions and demonstrate that Lean is about business; any and every business. A Lean business strives to understand what the customer really values, and then maximises customer value. Lean is not a short-term fad, but a long-term commitment towards continual improvement that involves every system, every process, every department and every employee within the organisation, irrespective of it’s size.

Misconception # 4: Lean is an ‘operational’ issue that can be solved by ‘operations people

Largely due to the fact that Lean “grew up” in the manufacturing industry (see Lean Misconception #3), there is still a strong belief by many managers and business owners that Lean is an ‘operational’ issue that can be solved by the ‘operations people’…..nothing could be further from the truth.

In very broad terms, Lean consists of two components….. technical and strategic, often referred to as the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sides of Lean. Firstly the technical side.

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Lean Misc #3 image

LEAN Misconceptions – Part 3

LEAN Misconceptions – Part 3

In Part 2 we shed light on the fact that Lean is not a process to reduce the number of employees, which followed from the initial myth that was debunked being that Lean is all about cost reduction. In this article we explore the myth that Lean is only applicable to manufacturing.

Misconception # 3: Lean is only applicable to manufacturing organisations

The origins of Lean can be traced back to Henry Ford in the 1920’s when he developed the assembly line for the Model-T Ford. In the 1950’s, we then had the quality crusade driven by Deming and Mitrofanov’s Group Technology which was further enhanced by Burbidge in the 1970’s. In the 1980’s the Just-in-Time, Zero Inventory and Total Quality Control (JIT/TQC) era rose to the forefront, and finally Lean took center-stage with Ohno and the development of the Toyota Production System (TPS) in Japan. So while neither Ford, Deming et al, called their methodologies ‘Lean’, their approach always focused on the elimination of all forms of ‘waste’…the very essence of Lean. It was only in the 1990’s that these various approaches to process improvement were finally amalgamated and called ‘Lean’. Read more

Lady Ninja

Lean Myths & Realities – People

LEAN Misconceptions – Part 2

In Part 1 we debunked the myth that Lean is all about cost reduction. In this article we explore the myth that to be Lean a business has to cut staff.

Misconception # 2: Lean is a process to reduce the number of employees

As discussed in “Misconceptions # 1”, reducing the non-value added components or waste, capacity is increased (diagram 1), and increasing capacity is the REAL purpose of Lean.

Lean Misc Image #2

Diagram 1

By creating this additional capacity, the organisation now has the opportunity to either:

a) Reduce the number of employees.
Using this approach will invariably result in the following:

  • The process of continual improvement which is fundamental to Lean, coming to an instant halt. After all, which employee wants to reduce waste and make improvements to the organisation if it means that either he or his peers will then be without a job?
  • A huge decrease in employee morale.
  • Stagnant/declining productivity with the possibility of implementing any future improvement program/s being slim.
  • Stagnant growth and process improvement, thereby allowing the competition to catch-up and finally overtake the organisation.
  • Distrust between management and the employees, perpetuating the “us vs them” culture.

b) Utilise the employees to increase output and/or add greater customer value.
Using this approach will have the exact opposite effect to that of (a) above. Read more

Myth

Lean Business – Myth or Reality?

LEAN Misconceptions – Part 1

The Lean Philosophy has been around for many years, but unfortunately it is not always understood, predominantly because Lean is thought to be:

  1. A cost reduction exercise
  2. A process to reduce the number of employees
  3. Only applicable to ‘manufacturing’ organisations
  4. An ‘operational’ issue that can be solved by the ‘operations people’
  5. Only for ‘big’ organisations.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

In this series of articles, I will discuss each of these misconceptions and demonstrate that Lean is about business; any and every business. A Lean business strives to understand what the customer really values, and then maximises customer value. Lean is not a short-term fad, but a long-term commitment towards continual improvement that involves every system, every process, every department and every employee within the organisation, irrespective of it’s size. Read more