Tough times ahead?
What’s the choice for companies in terms of where to go from here with their existing Business Improvement programs? Scale it down like a number of companies we know, ramp it up, or maintain the status quo. In fact those very same companies that have scaled their efforts down are the same companies that have slated productivity improvements as the way forward. Productivity improvements should be on going, continuous and high priority within a business and given the same level of importance as Health and Safety. After all your competitors are also trying to improve productivity and drive the cost of production/processing/services down. If you’re not doing the same you’ll be on the back foot.
The best time to ramp up the productivity improvement program is anytime in our book. It is often identified as needed when things are not going well, however the best time is when things are going well. The problem is when things are going well, Major Capital spending ramps up and the ‘burning platform’ for productivity gains is eroded as companies focus on the capital projects. So the key is maintaining focus on short term gains while building for the long term. Businesses still need to have the capital projects but need to also be doing things better, cheaper, faster. This is where highly targeted and focused projects must be run.
Our experience is that there is no right time to start. Yes just start. If you start now you can be reaping results in 4-5 weeks with the right approach.
In our previous Questions and Answers Post; Q&A: First 5 questions you should be asking I outlined the 5 questions we ask when starting to turn around a struggling deployment or when starting from scratch to get results early. Heres the link to that post. So it’s time to get started,
- Identify your key processes. If you have multiple processes take one of those processes. Once you’ve identified the key process you are going to work on.
- Map the process
- Identify the Bottleneck. We do this by asking the process owners and more importantly the workers in the process where the process bottleneck is. The Bottleneck is the step in the process that governs the throughput of the entire process.When we map the process we always walk the process. When walking the process we want to be very observant to confirm the process steps and look for process interferences. We are looking for anything that appears to be hindering with the smooth operation of that process, or the continuous flow of the process. Typical examples we might see are; a person walking from one place to another, a pile of paper work forms, inventory piled before a work centre. Noting these interferences, also confirms the location of the process bottleneck.
- Start making Improvements. Once we understand the process, have identified the bottleneck and identified hindrances to flow we can actually start making process improvements. Its most important to start at the bottleneck. Not all improvements are created equally with only improvements made at the bottleneck having a positive impact on throughput. The bottleneck Identification provide our initial focus and we can leverage performance gains at the bottleneck to increase throughput of the process as a complete system not just by ad-hock improvements.
- Once we have elevated the bottlenecks performance the bottleneck may have shifted and we now need to start making improvements on the next bottleneck.
Using this process you can make improvements rapidly and start getting results quickly. So go get started, there’s no ‘best’ time to get started. The right time is now.