Maximizing Process Performance


Process PerformanceMost organizations, no matter the nature or size, begin their fiscal year by bringing into line operational capacity with a forecast of sales. Capital expenditures and/or adding other resources might be a part of meeting the required alignment but opportunities for maximizing current process performance should be the first prospect to investigate.

Once the leadership team has set process performance metrics they can now cascade the requirements to lower levels and tactical planning begins. This level of planning becomes mostly short term activities in achieving the objectives of strategic planning. They are short term activities but are obviously key.

Standardizing steps for maximizing process performance will bring improved communication, understanding required improvement resources, minimize resources through speed of execution, and decisions become based on real process data preventing unnecessary costs.

The maximizing process performance steps we have followed, for many years now, has four simple steps:

Mapping

This is the first step as it is a key input for the next three steps. It starts with a simple flowchart of materials. These materials can be raw materials as in manufacturing, critical information augmenting throughout a construction business, transactional steps within banking services, or adding functions and subroutines to a software product. This can be described as horizontal flow within the organization, the value chain. Once the horizontal flowchart is charted there needs to be the vertical flows added. These are key process inputs like supplier materials and services, external customer requirements, and sub-assembly vendors. These inputs must then be transformed to information the people in the value chain need to provide the expected customer value. This customer value should be noted, highlighted, and clearly described, throughout the mapping. Finally, and this step absorbs the most time, data collection of CURRENT process step cycle times, time wasted (7 wastes of Lean and Six Big Losses OEE related), poor quality, and resources required. From this collected process data a timeline of material or service flow is added to show the value added time versus the non-value added time.

Analysis

This step can only start after the Mapping step has been fully completed. There can be an impetus to speculate or to use intuitive process information and start making early improvement decisions. We have mostly found this to be a mistake and adds to the time of achieving the expected results. The data collection of all the measures mentioned in the Mapping step must be completed for the horizontal processes as well as the vertical processes. We have found the vertical processes can be as much as 50% of the overall lead time seen by customers and is usually contributing to poor quality, also seen by the customer. Process analysis, no matter the assigned targets, must be completed with the intent to improve all the key process measures, Cycle Time, Wasted Time, and Quality. Each of these measures are interconnected, improving one affords the other measures to improve. The analysis step does not use up much time but the people assigned must be skilled and experienced with process analysis.

Solutions & Stakeholders

Once the Analysis step is complete and confirmed, a systematic problem solving process is enacted. We recommend following the A3 process as it is intended to be part of visual management which will motivate other stakeholders to become involved with the improvements. Once solutions are developed and approved there are important questions to ask related to various types of stakeholders.

1.      Customers of the process (internal and external) – How will they react to what the team is proposing for changes?

2.      Implementation Team – What will be the impact on them (required time, conflict, etc.)?

3.      Indirect Groups – What is the wider impact of any of the solutions (environment, regulatory, etc.)?

Overlooking or not listening to the concerns of key stakeholders can result in solutions being blocked or leave solutions unsupported, dying on the vine.

Pilot

 Once stakeholder concerns have been considered and solutions have been developed it is time to implement. The Pilot step defined here is unlike some pilot programs in that the complete system is part of the pilot, not limited to one small part of the process. All solutions are executed as close together as possible and practical. The Leadership Triad is established to engage the leadership team. A3’s are posted and updated daily with results and adjustments. This will create the momentum in supporting and continually improving the assigned targets.

“A good system shortens the road to the goal” – Orlson Swett Marden

Maximizing process performance through practicing a standard process will quickly realize the expected goals and continually improve the process because of the momentum it creates.

Lean Teams USA

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