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Analysis of the Existing Process


The team's next step is to gather data and gain an un­derstanding of the current process ("TODAY," see Fig­ure 1). Masaki Imai states in his book Kaizeif that there are four types of processes:

      What everyone thinks exists

      What the standard operating procedure says exists

      What actually exists

      What should exist.

Changes to the process must not be based on opin­ion ("what everyone thinks") but rather upon facts ("what actually exists"). Objectives establish the desti­nation ("what should exist") and performance mea­sures are the mile markers. Analysis of the existing process is like determining where to begin the trip you are planning.

Flow mapping the target process as it is actually be­ing done today is an excellent way to begin an analysis (Figure 2). A useful, standardized format for flow map­ping is explained in Operations Management, a Value Driven Approach by Melnyk and Denzler.7

A detailed flow is best constructed by interviewing or observing each step as it is actually being performed. In his book Kaizen Mr. Imai calls this "going to Gemba" or the work place, to observe and gather data. Paper or elec­tronic data can be followed step by step from the first step within the project scope to the last. People supply­ing the first step clearly state what they provide and people receiving the output demonstrate their requirements. As the process map is constructed, the team records opera­tion cycle times, lead time elements, sources of variation, error, cost, and other relevant data. Once the process is mapped, the team can classify activities into value-add­ing (relative to the objectives) and waste.

The team will most likely experience a group "enlight­enment" as they map the activities in the process. Ob­stacles to the objectives will become evident. As knowledge increases, an understanding of the gaps be­tween what is desired ("FUTURE") and what actually occurs ("TODAY") is gained. At this point, enthusiasm and excitement over the possible improvements grow rapidly and improvement ideas will naturally flow from the team.

Creation of a Change Plan

Ideas generated by the team must be documented and evaluated. The team selects and tests those most likely to close the gap between what is required of the pro­cess, as stated in the project objectives, and what cur­rently occurs. As ideas are tested, the performance measures have to be closely monitored to determine what effect, if any, was produced by the change. Ben­efits must be quantified and documented. On the hu­man relations side, those employees affected by the change must be fully informed about what is being done. Sharing the objectives and reasons for the change with employees will achieve fine-tuning of the change ideas and buy-in to the required changes in their behaviors. Failure to include them can be a stumbling block if later, after the team has moved on, unanticipated problems surface.

The change plan, with team member input, should be a realistic timeline of a sequence of tasks that, when completed, will result in the desired change. Each task must have an owner, empowered and capable of com­pleting the task. The owner of the task must agree to a realistic date for completing the task, dependent upon the completion of prerequisite tasks. A clearly stated deliverable for each task should also be determined for each task. In the Blitz event, the times to complete tasks are very short. Often subgroups of the team will be tasked with rapid implementation of desired changes. They will focus exclusively on completing the required task as quickly as possible.

It is useful at this point to perform a review of the team's plan with all the management whose depart­ments may be affected by the changes. Getting buy-in to the improvement plan will speed implementation. If resources outside the team's control are required, this review will identify them and the benefits associated with applying them where required.

To Be Continued

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

Lean Manufacturing Articles and click on Series 14


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