A simple guide to improving lean processes

There are a lot of companies that operate with a mindset “Well, that’s what we’ve always done.“Unfortunately, this type of closed thinking can lead to great waste.

Tasks may be unnecessary to achieve the end goal, processes may be repeated several times if one is sufficient, workers may waste time on redundant responsibilities, and materials may be wasted during production.

When this happens within an organization, employee satisfaction decreases, so turnover increases, quality suffers, so customer satisfaction and persistence decreases, and one look at the books probably shows that the company is bleeding money.

This type of inefficiency can be expected to occur only in large corporations and organizations, but it is equally common in small and medium-sized enterprises and can be seen in every department.

Efficiency is the name of a game for successful businesses, and you start learning one of the best ways to turn your business into a lean, sluggish, and money-making machine.

Improving Lean processes

What is lean process improvement?

Improving the Lean process is a concept originally developed by Toyota to reduce the time between receiving an order and delivering it. If the improvement of a sustainable process is often discussed in the production environment, this concept can be applied in service, healthcare, technology and even government.

Think of a marketing department where multiple people are working on the same project but not communicating. Instead of everyone dealing with a specific aspect of the campaign, several people are doing the same task, while other activities are not covered.

This is not a traditional production environment, but the team could benefit from simply creating a traceable process that looks at the desired end product and finds the easiest way to reach it.

The whole point of this mindset is that if you look at the big picture, you can find ways to eliminate waste, be it financial, physical, time, or employee energy that could be spent elsewhere. It may take some time to implement this concept, and that’s okay. It is not intended to be a short-term solution, but rather a change in the mindset and culture of the entire company.

What are the benefits of improving the lean process?

Businesses that take advantage of process improvements will benefit greatly from this shift. These include:

  • Less waste
  • Less stock
  • Increased productivity
  • Better quality
  • Happier customers
  • Less cost
  • More profit

It makes perfect sense that if you eliminate redundancies, streamline processes and generate less waste, your profits will increase. If your customers receive your product faster and with less effort, you will have happier customers who will come back and recommend you to others. If you have more customers, your profits will increase again.

If you want to see this type of improvement in your organization, read on to learn how to improve your sustainable process.

How can I integrate sustainable process improvement into my business?

You guessed it – there is a process to improve the process. In fact, you need to take nine steps to achieve this level of efficiency in your organization. Let’s take a closer look at the steps to improve the lean process.

lean process improvement steps

1. Review the process you want to improve.

This step is important because if you don’t know what you need to work on, you don’t know where to focus your efforts. To do this, talk to the front line staff.

The biggest mistake companies make in this process is making changes, not to mention the people who do the work every day. Interview your front-line staff and ask them what is not working well in their daily routine.

2. Determine what repairs are needed.

Once you’ve identified what needs to be improved, it’s time to get your team involved again. There is a very good chance that they already know how to solve the problem, but have simply not been able to implement it because of the “we-are-always-did” mindset.

3. Apply the recommended changes.

How do you plan to implement the changes? Make a plan so that everyone involved understands and participates in the process. This is the best way to ensure the success of the entire organization.

4. Observe how the changes affect your performance.

While it would be great if your first attempt was successful, the reality is that once the process has been tested on site, it needs to be further refined. The only way to do this is through constant monitoring and reassessment. If new issues arise, you can address them and make any necessary changes.

5. Identify which activities add value.

In these steps, you will evaluate all aspects of each activity and process. During this time, you need to evaluate each activity to see if it adds value or reduces value to your process. If an activity is considered unnecessary, it should be removed and the process tested without it.

6. Limit the risk.

Production and often business in general are inherently risky. This time should be used to identify risky activities or aspects that are part of the current process and to eliminate or simplify their tasks. This may involve automating an activity or simply changing the way it is done.

7. Standardize the process.

Thoroughly document your progress in creating and refining your process. This allows other employees or, depending on the specific process, other teams or departments in your organization to repeat the process correctly.

8. Ensure compliance.

While improving the sustainable process should take place across the entire company culture, your industry or governing body may have specific metrics, procedures, and standard measurements that you must adhere to. Compliance must not be sacrificed for efficiency.

9. Improve the customer experience.

In determining the success of a Lean process improvement plan, marketers consider the customer experience to be a “moment of truth.” Ultimately, any improvements made during production or service must be reduced in order to have a positive impact on the customer.

Lean process improvement tools

There are many tools available for you on this journey. These tools help you organize your thoughts, identify problems, and implement your plan. Here are just a few tools you can get for help.

Like any other tool, the tool you choose must be the right one for your current job. If you start with one and don’t find it to suit your needs, consider trying another.

  • Why analysis: Asking “Why?”You can repeatedly identify the root cause of the challenges you experience.
  • Ishikawa diagramA: Also known as a “fishtail diagram” or “cause-and-effect diagram,” allows you to examine a problem from multiple angles, including measurements, materials, people, methods, machinery, and the environment.
  • Affinity diagram: It works great in the early stages of a sustainable deployment because it can help sort and organize large amounts of data. Identify the value you provide to the customer, and then discover issues with existing processes.
  • FMEA analysis (failure mode and effects): Catching problems before they get out of hand helps you eliminate waste and save money. This tool allows you to examine your feed and identify problems early.
  • 5S dashboard: This approach helps you organize your workspace for maximum efficiency. While the original tool has five Sds based on Japanese terms, many companies have added a sixth practice. They indicate:
    • Sort
    • Queue
    • Shine
    • Standardize
    • Continue
    • Safety
  • Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle: Create continuous improvement by repeatedly analyzing the problem, testing the hypothesis, reviewing and then analyzing the results, and finally implementing the plan if successful.

Techniques for improving Lean processes

Several approaches have been developed to improve the Lean process. Like tools, it’s important to find the right technique for your project and organization. For example:

Six Sigma (DMAIC model)

To reduce process variability, Six Sigma works to increase customer satisfaction through both external and internal workflows. The DMAIC roadmap indicates:

  1. Define
  2. Measure
  3. Analyze
  4. Fix
  5. Control

Kanban

These whiteboards allow you to visualize your workflow and use value flow mapping to divide your workflows into stages. A visual representation of your workflow and all the activities that make it up can help you identify inefficiencies.

Sharing this board with your entire team will allow everyone to stop the process if a problem occurs. It is now up to everyone to find a solution.

WIP restrictions

Within Kanban boards, there is a concept known as WIP restrictions or “operating restrictions”. Each step in the Kanban whiteboard workflow is indicated by a column. WIP restrictions force you to stay below the maximum number of jobs for each step. This can be for the person, the work phase or the whole project.

Adherence to these constraints ensures that current tasks are completed before new ones start and helps to complete activities more quickly.

Recent thoughts on improving lean processes

Now that you understand how important it is to improve a sustainable process for a successful and efficient organization, it is time to reiterate that it is an ongoing process. If you try to reorganize your entire organization overnight, you will no doubt fail and you will probably make things worse than you started.

Identify the biggest sources of inefficiency in your organization and target them one at a time until you start a well-functioning business.

Lastly, keep in mind that your most valuable asset is the employees who get their hands dirty every day. Trying to identify problems and find solutions without their input is like going blind when you can just open your eyes.A new invitation to action

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