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Space limits the amount of detail that can be mentioned here. There are, however, several critical areas that will be discussed in more detail. The first of these is identification of the process requiring review. Process improvement opportunities can come from;

1. a Strategic Plan or Enterprise Modelling Activity
2. a prior process review
3. something breaking and requiring immediate action
4. an employee idea, problem, suggestion, etc.
5. a new business requirement.

Any one or more of these can be the catalyst for a process review.
The second critical activity is that of team make up. Each process being reviewed must have an owner/sponsor who has a vested interest in the area under review. This individual is generally at the vice president level. The ideal team is made up of four to six individuals. It is comprised of real experts in the process from all major organizations involved in the process. A lesson learned is that the people closest to the problem are best suited to develop solutions to that problem. These individuals will be the keys to implementation of new ideas in their respective areas. Electric Boat strives to ensure that each team has an individual with systems analysis experience who has lim­ited, if any, functional knowledge of the process but can facilitate the team. Someone on the team will have to assume the duties of the data manager; a most critical but time consuming task. Team members need a solid reputa­tion of fairness and objectivity within the organization. During the review, they will have to change their mind-set from the current focus on their department to one of total company, i.e., "What would I do if this were AIY company?" Once established, the team selects a leader/spokesperson. After the team members have been selected, they will nor­mally go through some process review methodology training as well as some team building exercises.

The next crucial activity is establishing process bound­aries, goals, baseline indicators and a plan. The team and sponsor will define and agree upon the "start" and "end" points of the review. They agree on what will be included in the process and what will not be included. This is important in order to maintain focus during the review and avoid going off on tangents. The team must realize that the boundaries may change as they get into the review and as such they should periodically reassess them.

Quantifiable goals of the review are established that are both aggressive but attainable, e.g. reduce purchase order processing time by 50%. These goals are challenging enough to stretch the organization and also provide inspi­ration to stimulate creative thinking. In order to measure the goals, the team will have to collect baseline indicators and performance measures during the data collection process, e.g., what is the purchase order processing time today that we hope to reduce by 50%? Measurements are critical to process improvement. "If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it. If you cannot control it, you cannot manage it. If you cannot manage it, you cannot improve it." The team will also develop a high level milestone plan including periodic briefings with the process owner/spon­sor to avoid down stream surprises.

By far the most time consuming phase of the review is that of data collection, i.e. developing an understanding of how the process currently operates and documenting it. One-on-one and group interviews with individuals who perform and manage the process are the most frequently used methods to collect data. Interviews are structured based on the individual being interviewed. They can also be categorized by the type of person being interviewed. There are generally three types:

1. Executive Management—executives and officers of the organization
2. Operating Management—Department Heads, Man­agers, Supervisors
3. Operating Personnel—people responsible for a specific job of function
The best information is usually obtained by interviewing the people who make the system work, i.e., the operating personnel. Questionnaires can be useful but not as a substitute for face-to-face communication. Documentation from the interviews includes:
1. a description of the tasks performed,
2. identification of the information flow,
3. samples of information sources,
4. records regarding time spent per task iteration, task volume, backlogs, overtime required, etc.,
5. suggestions on how to improve the process from the individuals interviewed.

Information from each interview is then cataloged by the data manager. This is also the time to collect and validate baseline statistical information.
The team will then develop a graphical representation of the process using the information collected during interviews, i.e., a simple flow chart. This document, the "as-is" flow, is used to identify items that may have been over looked
during the interviews, e.g., identification of all logging and copying activities, distribution lists, bottlenecks, etc. A follow up interview should be considered to validate the flow and answer questions that may have come up.

The most difficult segment of the process review is that of analysis. The teams will usually go through a learning curve. In order to obtain the optimum benefits, team members have to open up to radical thoughts and ideas. There are no limits in process improvement. The group must THINK BIG, but be sure not to overlook the obvious. The first consideration is always to determine if the entire
process can be eliminated! If not, can part of it be elimi­nated? Can the process be changed to improve its effective­ness? Can the organization be changed to improve the effectiveness of the process? Will automation help? What can be done to eliminate waste?

To be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 01


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