Any process improvement requires business leaders, process owners, operational managers and process operators to work together to find ways and means of improving the process. By treating your process improvement plan as you treat project management, you can implement a successful improvement.
The Life Cycle of a Process
The process improvement lifecycle requires that the process itself must first be completely defined in order to understand all its parameters. That will have to include the materials, equipment and technical skills required to complete the process. It is useful at this stage to also understand the overall impact that the process will have on the organization, especially its finances.
The process must then be measured with respect to the overall goals and its impact on the processes that precede it and those that come after it.
Analysis of the process is the next step. Are the best production methods being followed? Is the equipment being used following current industrial practices? Is the technology being used up to date? Are correctly trained staff assigned to the project?
Once this analysis is made, each of the aspects is examined to see whether there is any room for improvement in terms of time, resources and equipment usage. Any improvements suggested must be evaluated for their financial effect as also the bearing such improvements have on equipment and process operators.
This process improvement has to be a continuous process.
Every Cycle Is Different
It is essential that every cycle of improvement is looked on as a separate project. This takes into account that each particular cycle has a definite beginning and an end, with goals and objectives that are firmly established.
The steps that will constitute the project work are:
- A complete documentation of the process that needs to be improved. This should address the initial input, the processes that take it forward and the final product that is passed on to the next level in the production cycle. Present resources being used in terms of equipment, as well as manpower and their level of training, has to be part of this document.
- A baseline for the process must be established in terms of utilization of resources, and cost per unit.
- If customers are a part of the process, present customer satisfaction in terms of service and other standards that must be measured.
- The document containing all these items must be validated and accepted by all the members of the project team that will carry this process improvement further.
- A new set of standards need to be established for all items based on the process improvement that is now targeted.
- The process must be analyzed by the project team and scope for improvement at each point examined.
- Changes to the process in terms of all resources employed must be designed and developed and then documented, with the full involvement of the process operators.
- Once any such change is approved it needs to be implemented.
- A review of the process change and its effect has to be measured to see whether it has reached the specified new standards and the earlier baseline.
- Documentation of the entire process ensures improvement for future cycles.