“The validity of a well-planned process improvement project is identified through value-added process mapping, problem isolation, root cause analysis and problem solution. Ultimately, the key to refining processes is to concentrate on the process from the customer’s point of view and identify and eliminate non-value added activities.”
Whenever there is a new product or service being offered to customers, there is a new process and value stream. Value Streams include both non-value-added and value-added activities and are the actions required to create a product or service from raw material until it reaches the customer. Value Stream Maps are more detailed than process maps as they include details, such as, cycle time, changeover time, uptime, process activities, operator self-inspection notes and customer specifications.
To successfully integrate value stream mapping into product development you must first accurately gather, understand, and specify the value desired by the customer. Collect real time data of the actual pathways of material and information flow. You may have to conduct several walkthroughs, first to assess the entire value stream and then to gather more detailed information. The best course of action is to work backwards as this reduces the probability of missing an activity because it takes place more slowly, without jumps to conclusions of assuming you know what happens next.
It is wise to utilize a pencil, paper and stopwatch when creating a process map. Once you have completed the map, remove the waste. Let the requirements of the customer guide you in making value flow from the beginning to the end of the process. The three most critical KPIs in a value stream map are: cycle time, value creation time, and lead time.
Cycle time refers to the time it takes to complete the overall process. Value creation time is rarely equal to cycle time. It is the time it takes to complete those work activities that actually transform the product into what the customer wants. Lead time is the time it takes to move one piece, part, product or service all the way through the process. All this information should be captured on the value stream map. When the value stream is complete, it will help you identify wasteful activities and realize opportunities for improvement. After you have identified the areas that need improvement, create an improvement plan that clearly states what needs to be done and when, has clear and visual measurable goals and objectives, complete with checkpoints, deadlines, and clear responsibilities.
When planning a process improvement project the most important question you have to ask is, “What problem are we trying to solve?” This question relates directly to the first step in DMAIC ( a Lean Six Sigma problem solving tool), which is to define the problem. After you answer this question you are ready to outline the criteria for an effective process improvement plan. Projects are usually one time occurrences created to fulfill specific goals for the organization.
Essentially, Lean Six Sigma projects must have the following 3 critical characteristics to be effective: performance, cost and time. The performance criteria allows us to understand what the project seeks to accomplish. Project expectations and goals should be written clearly, be realistic, made available to all project team members, and team members should also be held accountable for achieving them.
The second criteria, cost, provides insights into the resources needed to complete a project. Usually, money belts which are financial auditors provide an objective independent evaluation of the potential financial benefits of a project as well as the actual results achieved by the Lean Six Sigma project.
Finally, the third criteria, time, assures that team members are aware of the time-frame for the starting and ending of the project. Gantt Charts are excellent tools for monitoring all the activities associated with a project coupled with checkpoints which are smaller points throughout a project that are used to judge how far the project is toward completion.
It is imperative that all team members in a process improvement project understand the top 3 inter-related objectives of the project which are meeting the budget, finishing on schedule and meeting the performance specifications.
“Effective Lean organizations study their processes from their customer’s point of view and align their processes to meet their customers’ needs the first time and every time.” – Donna Summers
“The first step in any business process improvement initiative is to define the problem (s) but to engage in a Lean project you must have top management support.”
Onboarding a new hire is stressful enough. Paperwork needs to be done, work area needs to be set up, et cetera. But no one remembers about supplies. Utilizing Lean Six Sigma methods and tools like 5S, visual management and Kanban to remove office waste is a great way to have a supplies inventory system that ensures all employees know where each item is kept and are aware of what is considered to be low inventory. This will ensure an order is placed in a timely manner to avoid any impairment in daily business operations or having to run out to your local supplies store and grossly over-pay.
When all supplies are cataloged, organized, labeled, tracked in Excel and this information is readily available to employees; waste is reduced in terms of time looking for supplies, productivity time wasted and money wasted. Ensuring employees know where all supply items are kept will significantly reduce time and productivity wastes. They should also be aware of what is considered to be low inventory (Zero is not acceptable) because this will allow immediate and timely replenishment.
For example, you would start by creating an inventory tracking Excel sheet like the one below (you can personalize it as you wish). You can set it up in Google Sheets and share with your team. You can encourage employees to make notes on whether items should be made more accessible to them (move printer closer to marketing team, et cetera) or add additional items to the list that will help them enhance their productivity.
In short, those that prepare and organize their office supplies inventory systems effectively reduce the most critical waste which is time and then of course, money.
When utilizing the Voice of the Customer to glean insights don’t just target the customers that love you. When you take the time to really listen to the customers that hate you and turn their pains into solutions that is when you actually drive growth for your company.
Why target customers that hate you, you may ask? They have valuable insights on how your product or service can improve and can inspire you to create solutions that are currently not offered in the industry (first to market opportunities).
Companies that are customer focused stay on top of customer pains and actually listen to them. They take more meetings with customers and work to turn client requirements into products, services or solutions.
The questions are:
Why do you hate us and what can we do to change that?
What are we doing wrong?
What are your pains?
When you acquire the answers to these questions then you can brainstorm ideas for products, services or solutions that will solve these pains. As a customer focused company you can’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. By turning customers who hate you into customers that love you will not only increase your client base and revenue but also make your competitors run for their money.
1) Encourage suppliers and clients to re-use containers/boxes
2) Decrease lot sizes
3) Actively share demand forecast and inventory data with suppliers to ensure efficient purchasing and timely inventory replenishment
4) Develop a quality plan and actively (Quarterly checks) ensure supplier is meeting quality requirements by conducting an on-site visit
5) Use total cost method and mutually beneficial long term contracts to build strong partnerships with vendors
6) Integrate a customer service chat feature on your website
7)Utilize electronic billing
Great employees want to be challenged and learn new things. To increase employee retention and overall workplace satisfaction rates Human Resources must stay abreast of individual skills, learning capabilities, and industry skill trends.
They should also encourage Managers/Supervisors to offer opportunities that allow employees to further enhance their skills, learn valuable new skills, or pursue interests. In house educational programs and ability to attend related conferences and workshops are a great way to build employee confidence and skills. Human Resources should also check in quarterly with employees to see how they are doing and gain insights into their goals, concerns, workplace bottlenecks, et cetera. This information can be used to match critical variables with other employee data for the purpose of optimizing your Talent Management processes.
By utilizing the Voice of the Employee, Human Resources and Managers should collaborate in surveying and sharing employee information for the purpose of creating in-house educational programs that will enhance employee skills.
Employers that encourage an evergreen learning culture reap the following benefits:
- Increased overall employee satisfaction
- See improved productivity
- Reduced process cycle times
- Improved client satisfaction
- Greater profits
By actively integrating learning opportunities at the workplace employers will not only enhance employee productivity but also yield greater profits. It pays to invest in your employees!
Departmental collaboration is greatly important in the Collections/Billing department. This team must have access to project /product status, project/product delivery and results; this will allow the Lead person handling the over-due account to develop an understanding of the situation, survey the client to ensure requirements were met and if they were not met deliver this information to the production team. In other words, the Collections Team can be an extension to the sales, marketing, production teams by acquiring additional Voice of the Customer data.
For example, it may be that the Project Manager is not effectively translation the client’s requirements into product/service specifications. This will prompt the need to test and implement process controls that ensure product/service specifications meet client requirements.
By utilizing payment plans, longer payment terms (Net 30-90), broader payment options (checks, credit cards, debit cards, PayPal, et cetera), engaging in daily communication and understanding of the client’s needs and situation can ensure an enduring relationship and stronger cash flow.