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How to Simplify Your Systems

There are five steps for your team to follow when simplify­ing your systems:

1. Vision modeling

Establish a common vision of the desired result by creating a paper model that shows how the systems should work. This step is critical to the process. Without a vision in place, the remaining steps will likely be compromised. It may be determined that the correct starting point for creating this model is assuring that all team members receive the same initial education on current manufacturing systems concepts.

2. Evaluation

Review the actual systems against the newly accepted vision looking for the five categories of complexities listed above plus any informal systems, "work around" solutions to problems inherent in the systems, or missing ingredi­ents that hinder their use.

3. Identify potential improvements

Make a "hit list" of candidate items for simplification and their recommended solutions. Be sure to review the logic of the software, data structures and accuracy requirements, policies and procedures, performance measurements, or­ganizational issues, and training requirements. Estimate costs and benefits of each improvement. Prioritize the list.

4. Convince the organization

Sell the model and the improvement package to Manage­ment and the users. They have played a significant role in making the current systems as complex or simple as they are. They will have the same role in making the simplifica­tion project successful. Their willingness to give up the bureaucracy, levels of precision, and reliance on informal systems and communications will determine your success.

5. Implement

Add, repair, replace, and discard as planned to resolve the discrepancies and make your systems conform to your model.

Getting the Payback

The return for simplifying can be very significant. At a minimum, it means that the six or seven digit investment you made in your manufacturing systems will pay off as expected or better. At the opposite extreme, it can mean the elimination of redundancies throughout the organization, a plan that optimizes the use of your company's processes and resources as they currently exist, improved flexibility and customer service. If your system is "on hold" because it is too complex to work, simplifying can be the way to quickly break the log jam and provide a large short term payback for the effort involved. If your company is not ready for a systems reimplementation or a complete reengineering effort, simplifying can be a smart move at a much lower cost to move you in the same direction.


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