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Transforming processes is very culture sensitive. As stated earlier, there are several options available on how to identify and attack process improvements, e.g., top-down enterprise modeling, bottom-up department unique re­views, etc. At Electric Boat, new efforts typically launch themselves with fanfare and claims of dramatic potential for improvement. Then, as the difficult realities set in, the wind leaves their sails and they sometimes find themselves dead in the water, or worse, sinking. When people see this happening again and again, they develop a justifiable skepticism. The only thing that can overcome this skepti­cism is genuine, positive results. The primary barrier to success is that of culture.
A business' culture is comprised of its organization, tools, measures and processes.

Changes to the culture can be attained through any one or more of its components. With the technological advances of the recent years, the area of tools has been the one most frequently used with little changes if any being made to organization, processes or the overall culture. Examining and changing the way we run the business, i.e., its pro­cesses, is the key to cultural changes. But it cannot be dictated or demanded. It must be sold!

Recognizing this reality, the Process Review effort chose to start in a phased and exploratory manner. It relied heavily on grass-roots response and support for its publicity, knowing that "word of mouth" of people who have experi­enced genuine improvements would, in the long run, be the most effective marketing tool. It modeled the behavior it hoped to encourage, it recognized small gains as well as big ones, and it developed successful ways to build effective teams that crossed organizational silos. The Electric Boat/ Data Systems Division Teams have completed over 35 process reviews to date with several more in process or planned.

Sample Process Review Results

It was recognized that the contract change process has a large backlog that required significant resources to main­tain. Without changing the process, a growth in staff was anticipated. Improvements were made in paper flows, approvals and distinctions among the various types and sizes of changes. Implementation of the detailed suggested improvements resulted in reducing the overall number of process activities by 50%, a processing time reduction of 60%, diminished the backlog by 82% and reduced headcount performing this function by 40%, all within eighteen months. Annual savings from this effort have been in excess of $3,000,000. All of this was accomplished with no changes to computer systems.

Another issue involved the length of time it was taking to process "Stop Work Orders" for release to the shipyard. A Stop Work Order is a communication vehicle to notify manufacturing of a pending engineering change that could impact work-in-process. Processing speed is critical to minimized unnecessary rework. The review uncovered both duplication and some unnecessary activities. It resulted in reducing approvals by 30%, computer updates by 67%, number of forms used by 75% and the number of activities in the process by 32%. These improvements re­quired very minor changes to the information management system. Almost all the changes were process oriented.

A third example involves the method of collecting labor hours. A study had found that there were several "systems" in existence governed by different time documents. His­torically improvements in this area focused on improving efficiencies in the data processing arena. The study had found that the typical foreman spent and hour and a half per day on labor time recording for his/her employees. The process was basically manual and, therefore, prone to mistakes. The study of this process recommended imple­menting a completely automated time, attendance and labor collection system. The result was an automated system using data collection for both employee identifica­tion and labor collection based on the work package being performed. The system was totally integrated with the manufacturing and cost collection systems currently in place. It resulted in eliminating manual time cards and associated signatures and reduced the time the foremen spend on this task by 85%. There has also been a reduction in costs associated with data processing and time keeping. In addition, the system has provided the ability to increase the foreman to worker ratio resulting in net annual savings of over $1,500,000. Furthermore, the streamlined process has resulted in productivity savings of more than $ 1,800,000 annually.

Electric Boat has come a long way in the past couple of years in the area of business process improvement, but there is still a long way to go. Changes are slow in large businesses, particularly when they involve organizations, accountabil­ity and culture. Electric Boat is working to improve the lines of communication in all directions. Management commitment is also a concern. Top management commitment is in place but more work is need to obtain that of middle management. A third area requiring additional attention is that of recognition. Process Improvement Teams are usually part time activities for the participants. Team members have willingly taken on these additional assignments without any adjustment to their existing workloads. This extra effort needs to be recognized by sponsoring management.

ConclusionsA business' culture is made up of its processes too, and as processes are transformed the culture cannot help but be affected. The whole proves to be much greater than the sum of its parts as we learn to migrate from group to team, from analysis to caring objectivity, from data gathering to genu­inely opening up to our potentials and from presenting final reports to achieving enthusiastic buy-in and ownership. Electric Boat is convinced that this approach improves their ability to respond to the ever changing environment, and they are certain that, as they gain "the cooperative edge" among themselves, they cannot help but enhance their "competitive edge" in the marketplace.

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

Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 01


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