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How to Optimise a Process for Better Efficiency - FocusIMS

How to Optimise a Process for Better Efficiency

Avoid wasting time, money, and resources by learning how to optimise a process.

Professionals in the modern era are far more proficient in the use of cutting-edge technology than their predecessors were. They use computers, mobile devices, and applications hosted on the cloud to get things done. 

And yet, most people continue to waste time on mundane, non-productive activities. Shouldn’t we have better optimised our business procedures by now?

The most technologically advanced companies use some business process optimisation to eliminate data silos, streamline operations, empower workers, and improve customer service.

What is Process Optimisation?

Let’s dive into the meaning of business process optimisation and how automated solutions may boost your team’s efficiency.

Constant adaptation is essential in a dynamic and unstable environment. You must cope with new conditions, including expanding globalisation, emerging technologies, or the march toward digitalisation.

Those who don’t modify their ways to accommodate the shifting conditions will struggle to find footing and survive in an increasingly complex setting. For instance, it’s getting more challenging to get around without a smartphone in today’s world.

All people experience this in their unique ways. Businesses must constantly adjust to new conditions and make business processes more efficient to stay competitive in a global market and meet the shifting demands of their clientele.

The idea that one should always strive to do better is not new. People have always looked for methods to simplify their lives. We can learn from our forefathers, who perfected their hunting techniques over time, and the sailors who built more robust and faster ships to traverse the oceans.

Early modern economics can trace its roots back to the nineteenth century when industrialisation introduced systematic approaches to improving productivity.

Producing enough goods to meet the high demand was a problem at the time. That’s why they worked so hard on streamlining manufacturing processes.

Today, it’s not enough to mass produce a product. It must also cater to each customer’s unique requirements. This shift places a premium on the needs of the clientele. The more efficient perspective now covers the entire order-to-payment process, not just production.

Organisations need process optimisation to improve their processes’ effectiveness and efficiency. Optimising a business process implies making it more effective, practical, and inexpensive. Optimising a process usually involves leveraging technology to automate recurring steps and eliminate bottlenecks.

What are the Benefits of Process Optimisation?

Organisations can gain from process optimisation in several ways, including:

Improved Efficiency: Improvements in productivity and cost reductions can result from eliminating unnecessary steps, redundancies, and bottlenecks.

Quality Enhancement: Process optimisation can boost the value of a product or service by decreasing the frequency of mistakes and enhancing service quality.

Better Customer Satisfaction: Faster, more dependable service is one benefit of streamlining operations, which can boost customer satisfaction.

Enhanced Agility: Optimised processes can adapt to fluctuating market conditions and evolving client requirements, increasing a company’s ability to compete.

Better Decision-Making: Improved process visibility and control can yield helpful information for making educated decisions and driving gradual enhancements.

Improved Employee Satisfaction: Improved morale and productivity come from happier workers who experience less stress and frustration due to process optimisation.

How to Optimise a Process

Process optimisation is not a recent trend but rather has deep historical roots. Different approaches have evolved over time and across cultures. They have profoundly affected one another and share certain fundamental ideals and principles. 

However, they focus on various things, and their methods and approaches to achieving those goals can be entirely different. One example is the Six Sigma methodology, which uses a unique mathematical method for keeping the score of defects. When compared to this, the Kaizen approach relies heavily on visuals.

Not all strategies are well-suited for dealing with the many improvement themes based on the problem and the preexisting basics. The Six Sigma method, for instance, is a mathematical methodology that is challenging to implement in heterogeneous systems. 

As a rule of thumb, a planned optimisation project should be more extensive for more complicated problems. The more people and departments engaged in the workflow you aim to enhance, the more complex the optimisation process.

Depending on the nature of the issue, you have many options for picking the appropriate process optimisation strategy.

Before initiating an improvement project, it is vital to assess the advantages against the costs. Achieving a marginal gain would not justify using a time- and energy-consuming strategy. 

However, more robust approaches that can help deal with complexity are crucial for more demanding processes. Many often overlook that a bit of common sense can quickly improve a simple process. You can do it without sophisticated methodologies.

If only one team is involved, optimisation within the context of the team-oriented continuous improvement process (CIP) is usually sufficient. Kaizen and Six Sigma are more involved approaches that you should only use when dealing with problems that span multiple teams or departments.

What are Some Ways to Optimise Business Processes?

Following one of these methods can help you optimise your process, improving efficiency and effectiveness over time.

Common Sense

It is not always necessary to undertake a massive improvement initiative to see significant process changes. 

Workers should only be given some latitude within well-defined tasks, competencies, and duties. They must have the autonomy to make minor tweaks to the preexisting work processes and the individual phases, which will typically suffice.

Simple steps like this work best when everyone is on the same page and follows firm guidelines.

Continuous Improvement Process 

Improving a procedure one step at a time is a common starting point for making improvements. 

Everyday optimisations, even the simplest ones, are easier to implement in teams that have practised together. The results of such brief collaborative sessions can be rather impressive. 

The continuous improvement process, Commonly shortened as CIP, is an excellent foundation for enhancing the inner workings of a team. Improving teamwork and unity is a happy byproduct of streamlining business operations.

Developed by William Edwards Deming, the Deming Circle‘s process optimisation strategy is the foundation for the CIP approach.

Deming Circle

The CIP approach relies heavily on the underlying attitude. The strategy depends on gradual, iterative process improvement with input from all relevant staff members. The Japanese company Toyota pioneered the Kaizen approach, which is synonymous with the methodology. 

Both approaches share the same underlying philosophy. They emphasise the contributions of the workforce toward improving efficiency. CIP-using businesses pick and choose which suggestions to apply from within the company. On the other hand, Kaizen is a more all-encompassing and systematic strategy for company-wide, multi-departmental improvement.

Successful introduction of the CIP technique in a team requires establishing the prerequisite framework conditions. Setting aside regular time to do something together is one example of this. Additionally, an internal recommendation system should regularly collect potential improvement ideas. The actual workshop for making changes consists of four stages:

1. Picking a Topic for Improvement

At the outset of the workshop, participants will decide on a shared area for improvement. The team’s internal topic collection or suggestions from the internal recommendation system are good starting points. In most cases, the most immediately helpful suggestion takes priority.

2. Examining the Roots of the Issues

The team works together on the topic at hand. The first step is a thorough identification and analysis of the trouble spots. The most important parts of any process are easiest to learn by watching someone else do them. Therefore, you should do this in the place where the work occurs. Then, after pinpointing possible trouble spots, the entire team works to fix them.

3. Put the Improvement Into Effect

The next stage integrates the developed solutions into the workflow. A real-time simulation of the modified procedure is crucial. It is the quickest method for determining if the optimisations have the intended result or if more work is necessary. Document and promptly implement the revisions into work documentation and instructions.

4. Evaluating the Impact

The team meets for a group evaluation a few weeks following the initial improvement workshop. The goal is to figure out if the changes enhanced workflow as intended.

No single workshop must go on for too long. It shouldn’t take up more than half a regular workday. On top of that, the generated solutions need to be easy to understand and put into action quickly.

To maintain order and structure throughout the workshop, one team member takes the reins as the leader. It involves presiding over meetings, keeping track of time, and recording final decisions.

Internal Suggestion Scheme

An organisation’s internal suggestion system is a mechanism for tapping into the skills of all workers. Idea cards and, more recently, computerised tools have also been made available to staff for submitting proposals for enhancement. Increasingly, companies are giving bonuses to those who propose ideas that will impact their bottom line the most.

Internal suggestion schemes provide a foundation for making changes in-house and are frequently in tandem with the CIP approach. It is most commonly associated with the CIP methodology, although it works with other improvement strategies like Kaizen and Six Sigma.

Kaizen

After World War II, Toyota in Japan hired Taiichi Ohno as an engineer and production manager. He travelled to the United States multiple times to learn from Henry Ford’s manufacturing system to overcome the difficulties that arose after the war and build and advance production. 

Toyota’s output consisted of relatively modest numbers of variants of a single model. Therefore Toyota modified Henry Ford’s mass production system to meet the company’s demands. The Toyota Production System and the Kaizen technique are direct offshoots of this philosophy.

Kaizen is both a concept and a philosophy that emphasises systematic, incremental improvement in the quality of a service or an organisation’s output. Workers attend workshops that tackle the enhancement. 

This workforce is then positioned centrally within the Kaizen approach. We aim to eliminate all forms of waste from our processes by coordinating our efforts to meet our customers’ requirements best.

It is not just relevant to the seven categories of waste (muda). Instead, it’s also about preventing inequality (mura) and undue pressure (muri). Productivity and error-free operations can only be possible by completely doing away with the three Ms mentioned earlier.

Increased customer satisfaction is a primary objective of the Kaizen approach since attracting new clients is more costly than keeping existing ones. Customer pleasure is a priority over other goals in favour of minimising expenses, maximising quality, and accelerating delivery times.

Standardisation of procedures and an ingrained culture of cooperation within an organisation are necessary conditions for using the Kaizen approach to improve work processes continuously. Here, we apply the four guiding concepts of flow, tact, pull, and zero mistakes.

From these fundamentals of Toyota’s production approach, just-in-time management emerged. The objective is to have sufficient quantities of the correct components at the proper times. There will be less need for temporary and permanent storage and less waste.

Six Sigma

Bill Smith, an engineer and scientist at Motorola, created the Six Sigma methodology in the 1990s. Bill Smith felt that the existing procedures were not concrete or measurable enough. Thus, he used a unique mathematical strategy to evaluate the efficacy of processes and outputs in the workplace. 

The method uses a systematic strategy and the appropriate methodological instruments to reduce repeated errors during work operations. A defining characteristic is that statistical methods can measure the results of the process.

Six Sigma improvement initiatives are processed and implemented within an improvement project incorporating the relevant staff.

Any number of potential avenues can spark improvement project ideas. Performance metrics and other numerical data are valuable sources of information. However, for complete thematic coverage, it is necessary to incorporate all sources.

Short workshops over a few weeks process and implement the improvement project. But from the beginning of the process to the end, no more than two or three months should pass.

Six Sigma’s Important Roles

One can achieve varying degrees of mastery in Six Sigma. The level of education and work experience determines these. Following is the breakdown of the levels:

Yellow Belt: Beginning Six Sigma

Green Belt can take charge of projects on its own.

Black Belt is capable of handling complex projects

Master Black Belt is capable of leading improvement organisations

Experts at various levels of certification can be found across an organisation, serving in a wide variety of capacities. They are crucial to the success of Six Sigma projects and their execution. Roles include:

Corporate Management
  • Liable for incorporating the Six Sigma approach into the overall business plan
  • Provides the groundwork for the handling and execution of Six Sigma projects
  • Responsible for initiating and tracking the progress of Six Sigma projects
The Champion
  • Directs the company’s Six Sigma initiatives
  • Assesses and recommends improvement projects
  • Selects team heads and aids them in preparing and carrying out their plans
  • Participates in the initial planning stages and the project’s final evaluation
  • A Master Black Belt often takes on this responsibility
Direct Managers
  • Help spread the company’s culture of continuous improvement and the Six Sigma initiative
  • Inform their staff about the program and its results
  • Provide resources for the enhancement project
  • Encourage collaboration between departments
Project Leaders
  • Oversee the implementation of all Six Sigma projects into regular business operations
  • Preside over project workshops
  • Document the work of all participating staff
  • Provide training to employees in the appropriate methodology and relevant tools
  • A Black Belt or Green Belt, depending on the issue’s severity, takes on this responsibility
Staff Members
  • Participate in improvement projects, offering their skills and knowledge gleaned from daily work
  • Implement and verify the improvement initiatives
  • The ideal key employee would have at least a Six Sigma Yellow Belt
Additional Support 
  • Makes knowledgeable contributions at appropriate points during the project’s life cycle
  • Examples may include: consultants, customers, vendors, and partner companies

The ongoing shift in a company’s economic climate affects operations and workflows. Efficiency starts with eliminating waste in work operations. Learn how to optimise a process to avoid wasting time and money.

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