Lean process improvement identifies which working processes are valuable and which are inefficient.
This strategy aims to streamline workflows, minimize wastage, manage inventories, mitigate redundancies, improve quality, and nurture value-added working processes, which ultimately, passes on value to the customer. Generally, lean process improvement seeks to make incremental changes to existing protocols. These augmentations are made at strategic moments, adopting a phased approach to optimizing working processes. As such, the goal of every lean process improvement initiative is to ensure all tasks and workflows are efficient and effective throughout the entire supply chain. Therefore, lean process improvement enhances the customer’s perceptions of value and overall satisfaction.
Moreover, the more value the customer places on a product, the more they are willing to pay. Thus, lean process improvement has a direct relationship to revenue. Furthermore, efficient processes and reduced waste improve overall operational productivity. This, in turn, enables businesses to increase their profit margins and overall return on investment. As such, lean process improvement is a critical activity when it comes to reaching broader corporate goals. In this article, we discuss the key steps of lean process improvement and how professionals should implement these measures within their organization.
1. Analyze the process that needs to improve
The first and most important step of lean process improvement is studying and understanding the current processes in place and how they function. A helpful approach is an AS-IS mapping model, which graphs a given process and its phases. This generates a comprehensive picture of what could be causing delays or bottlenecks and where improvements can be made. Further to this, it is important to conduct interviews with the employees involved in the process in question. After all, there is no one who will know better than them where improvements can be made.
2. Identify improvements
After the analysis stage, the project team needs to model the proposed process improvements. Create another diagram and share ideas; the new model should consider the purpose of the activity; who is most qualified to implement it; where the quality and compliance issues are, and why are they occurring. Remember to build this model from the ground up, considering why the task is necessary, where it should be carried out, and what the existing problems are.
After process modeling, the team needs to plan how to implement their suggested changes. Effectively actioning proposals and promoting organizational buy-in is an essential component of the success of the project. Once the new ideas are in place, the project managers can assess whether or not the improvements will succeed long-term.
4. Execution and monitoring
Improvement is only possible with careful monitoring and management. Once a project is properly assessed and measured, the project team can refine the execution. Managing execution is another critical step in lean process improvement, as the execution sequences will generate new indicators that drive further developments. However, there is of course always the chance that this new process will uncover different bottlenecks. As such, the importance of the monitoring stage is further emphasized, as the identification of new issues leads to enhanced process optimization and further productivity gains.
5. Value-added activity
Assessing value is an essential component of the project monitoring process: does each activity within the process add value to the company’s service or product? If the answer is yes, then the team must seek to continually improve this activity, to ensure maximum value is transferred to the consumer. However, if an activity is shown to be of little value, the project team should eliminate it from the process with immediate effect.
6. Mitigate the risk of faults
Some processes may include risky activity. Operational streamlining is, in essence, risk-averse. Therefore, the project team should seek to eliminate or simplify the activity. For example, there may be a technological solution that mitigates the risk of processual faults. However, organizations should not necessarily assume that automation is always the answer; sometimes, human resources will hold the solution to the desired improvement.
In some instances, a process will repeat throughout the value chain. These occurrences should be properly documented and stored in an accessible process library. This will promote the democratization of information across the enterprise, ensuring that when departments design new processes, they have detailed information about how other areas operate. As such, these tools will promote the standardization of processes and more efficient management. Thanks to recyclable components, departments can work together to create integrated processes.
Process improvement is not a finite endeavor. It is essential that the concept of lean process improvement permeate company culture, ensuring that employees apply these principles on an ongoing basis. However, most industries have standardized measurements, procedures, certifications, and other monitoring metrics. Subsequently, these measurements are overseen by government departments or industry standards bodies. Obviously, process improvement projects cannot contravene these rules.
9. Enhancing customer experience
It is essential that the advantages of lean process improvement are passed on to the customer. Without enhanced customer experience, all the efficiencies and improvements are rendered almost meaningless. Therefore, customer experience needs to be carefully assessed; this final stage is what marketers refer to as “the moment of truth”, where the impact of process improvement reveals itself.
Why lean process improvement is essential to efficiency
In summary, process improvement comprises analysing current protocols, redesigning sequences, assessing value, and mitigating risk. From here, the project team will implement these enhanced processes through standardized, compliant frameworks. Finally, the value of these operational efficiencies will transfer to the consumer through better products and improved customer experience. Consequently, the organization will reap the benefits of greater revenue and higher profit margins.
As such, lean process improvement drives constant internal reflection and operational streamlining. By identifying waste and mapping improvements, businesses can create an ongoing positive feedback loop of enhancement. Now, continuous improvement is one of the key imperatives of the business landscape. Therefore, companies can no longer compete on equal terms unless they are continually improving and enhancing value generation, placing the customer at the center of their business objectives.