Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Are Your Business Processes Traffic Bottlenecks?

First up sorry about the blog unreliability recently. We are back after a short break and focused on helping you with your pursuit of reliability.
So this week I was caught in traffic and that got me thinking about processes. Processes are like the roads we follow. In the picture you see many people following the process. Unfortunately it has a bottleneck ahead. Now what if I decided to leave the road and drive into the grass? I could move much faster there outside of the normal process right? The problem occurs when everyone decides to leave the process. Now, we are all out in the grass going different ways and causing damage and congestion.
This is what happens in many facilities. They build great processes through their lean implementation or EAM or ERP roll out but over time things change and it becomes easier to work off process through a work around than it is to follow the outdated process with all of their bottlenecks. This is not catastrophic at first because only a few power users are running off in the grass but over time more and more people tire of the bottlenecks and create their own path. Then data and people start colliding and the system starts to struggle because it is not being used the way it was designed. After a period of time you are left with carnage and debris and truly broken processes. Inefficiency takes over and waste piles up everywhere. 
So how do we avoid it? I like to do a yearly process review and improvement event. It starts by printing out all of your processes on large format paper and posting them on the wall. I then get multidisciplinary groups of users to come in and we go through the processes box by box or step by step. We are looking for changes that have occurred or should occur, "work arounds" that have been instituted and broken connections from one process to another. I reward honesty during this process and we note what we like and what is not getting us where we want to be. We study the "work arounds" and see if they should become the revisions to the process. An added benefit of the exercise is that we are reviewing and reminding the groups of what we have said we will do and they are adding details that increase their ownership of the processes. After this exercise, compliance goes up and efficiency follows as well.
Are you doing yearly process improvement events as part of your continuous improvement plan?