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Too Much Redundancy and Still Finding Holes? Here’s Why. 

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Today we have so much technology that redundancy seems unnecessary. Scanners, tablets, internet-based forms, automation, applications, integration – these are all designed to streamline systems and reduce redundancy, and yet some companies are still finding they have holes in information, resulting in dead inventory, failed customer service, disorganization, and usually frustration. 

How is this possible when technology is in place? How can things still fall through the cracks?

Often the answer is that the technology didn’t solve the root problem – it only created a temporary “band-aid” fix. Let me tell you a story. 

The Manufacturing Company with Bottlenecks 

I was called into a manufacturing company as a Lean Consultant to help with a problem in Accounts Receivable. They weren’t collecting money fast enough, and it was causing delays with purchasing, cash flow and on-time delivery. A fresh and objective set of eyes is usually able to ask the hard questions, as well as the obvious ones no one else is asking. 

In this particular company, there was a lot of finger pointing, and solutions were elusive because the more they searched, they just did more finger pointing elsewhere. In this game of “not me”, things weren’t getting done. Everyone was entering information, and because of this, the company didn’t understand how things were still bottlenecking and being delayed. Surely with their redundancy and technology, this shouldn’t be happening – right? 

The Broken Process – Redundancy and Technology

Sales people made sales, entered in the customer information, and passed them off to the Design department. Sales would then go find the next sale. 

As part of their process, A/R would bill 50% up front, many times missing the proper information to send and invoice, in which case they would call the customer and gather the information and enter it. This delay would bottleneck the process and hurt cash flow. Sometimes this bottleneck impacted design, installation, fabrication and purchasing. 

Once Design received the work order, they would review the sale and start the design process. Sometimes, the Design team needed more information that nobody had, so they would stop the process until they could gather the required information from the customer, delaying the process yet again. Once the design was created, Purchasing took over. 

Purchasing would then take the work order information and procure the materials needed for the end product. Sometimes, purchasing needed to swap out materials, and this would cause a delay due to needed customer approvals and changes to billing. Once everything was ok, Fabrication could begin. 

Fabrication created the product… as long as they had everything they needed. When they didn’t, someone, somewhere was put in charge of making adjustments and finding answers. 

Installation would take the end product and get it to the customer, mostly on time, but not always. When they didn’t, their reputation suffered. It sometimes created cancelled orders, resulting in scrap and wasted labor.  

This happened for a long time. 

Technology Didn’t Fail, the Process Did

The technology that was put into place created redundancy (everyone entering information) rather than solutions. The more people who “touch” the project, the more possibility there will be errors. In this company, everyone touched the same information, and built on it, wasting time. 

When I was able to see the entire process, from start to finish, and get feedback from every department, we were able to create a process that included a client checklist the salesperson could complete at step one that would collect all the information every department needed in order to be successful. 

We also looked at other potential and actual bottlenecks in the production process and created solutions that would keep things moving forward. This reduced frustration to employees and improved customer satisfaction levels. It also allowed the company to revamp some of their automated systems to better support the overall process, rather than just chunks of the process. Technology now has reduced redundancy to create a more streamlined and efficient process that yields higher production, increased revenue, and more profitability. 

 

As Lean Consultants, PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them – including ineffective technology and redundancy. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert. 

 

Having Trouble with High Employee Turnover?

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It May Be Time to Look at Your Processes

Some industries are known for high employee turnover. They tend to be jobs in retail or food service, where jobs pay low and are plentiful, but they aren’t the only ones. In fact, according to LinkedIn Learning, Software and Media jobs also rank among the highest.

There are some reasons for this high employee turnover that have a lot to do with changes in the industry, creating a wave of trends that those in employment sectors are watching. But, if you have discovered that your business is suffering from unusually high employee loss, and it doesn’t seem to fit the industry trend (or it does but you’d like to reverse that), you may want to take a look at your processes.

The Management Hole

One of the biggest complaints by employees is that they feel management makes decisions from behind a desk, without really understanding the front line. There tends to be a gap between what managers want from staff and what staff is able to provide. This becomes the forever battle between the front line and management teams.

Hands-on management encourages and equips leaders to spend time getting to understand their direct subordinates. Learning employee motivations and interests helps to close the communication gap, but is it enough?

Lack of Awareness

Sometimes, high employee turnover comes from a lack of awareness about why it is happening to begin with. Are there exit interviews in place? Is the management team open to feedback and continuous improvement?

Simply reviewing the motivations for employee terminations and resignations can create a huge insight from which management can begin to make positive, money saving changes. Just like changing a manufacturing error that creates a physical defect in the end product, making a change to a hiring, on-boarding, or management practices can correct problematic employee results.

High employee turnover and repeated disciplinary actions may be a sign of a broken system

An Example from the Trenches

Recently I discovered that someone close to me left his job in frustration over something that could have been fixed for under $20. The employee had been given warnings with increasing penalties for consistently not taking his lunch break on time. He was often focused on work, and with no clock in the work space, often lost track of time. Due to the type of work he was doing, wearing a wrist watch was dangerous, and he wasn’t allowed to have his cellphone on the floor.

Overall, he felt he was ‘magically’ supposed to know when it was lunchtime, and clock out at the appropriate time. Most of the time, a certain person returning from their break would be a visible trigger for him, but other times he missed it, and therefore, missed his break start, setting in motion a domino effect of missed lunch breaks for others. This was obviously a frustration for management.

When the employee asked for a clock to be installed, or the one on the wall to be repaired, he was told it would happen, but that day didn’t come before he received his third verbal warning for a late lunch clock out. Frustrated, he offered his resignation. No surprise, this wasn’t the only management fail he had experienced, but it was the straw that broke his back.

So, given the cost of replacing the employee, or purchasing a $20 clock, what would you choose? What systems need to be in place in order for this type of mistake to be avoided? A feedback loop? A change in procurement practices? What simple steps can be implemented to reduce the emotional and actual cost of high employee turnover?

Simple, Effective Solutions

Often, when I visit companies looking to improve results that aren’t meeting their expectations, I find a very simple fix. Sometimes this means throwing out cold inventory, changing how a process is done to improve efficiency, or simply purchasing the one thing employees need to be successful.

As an objective outsider, equipped with Lean Management tools, I walk through facilities and processes with a keen eye focused on the areas that can be made more efficient. Some of these changes are immediate, and others take time to get into place.

 

PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert.

5 Signs Your Company Needs a Lean Audit 

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lean audit

 

A Lean Audit is simply a process where I go to a business per their request and walk through, looking for areas that could be made more efficient. I am often surprised by how often the problem presented seems painfully simple to solve. 

What I found is that these companies have one thing in common: they can’t see what’s going on because they are operating from a place of doing things the way they have always done and have accepted that reality. 

Here are some real-life examples that, if they ring true for you or your company, you could benefit from a fresh perspective and a Lean Audit. 

Owner Storing Personal Equipment 

A problem I see often is that the owner of the business is storing personal property on-site. It is their space after all, but when this is causing a working environment that hinders employee productivity, it is easily resolved – move it. Employees will likely not challenge the owner’s placement of equipment, even if it is a problem, so it usually takes an outside force (such as myself) to show the owner how detrimental it is to employee productivity and offer better alternatives. 

Dead Inventory 

Another recurring issue I see is abundant amounts of dead inventory. It could be that a purchaser tried to take advantage of a bulk quantity deal and is simply storing unused product, or it could be that parts are still being held that will not ever be used. 

It may seem silly to think companies would hold on to obsolete products, but it often comes down to a fear of how to dispose of them – what if they are needed one day? The truth is, just like your closet at home, if you haven’t worn it in the past year, you probably won’t use it next year, and it should be donated, sold or thrown out. A lean audit can help identify what is truly obsolete, and what can be re-purposed. 

No/Little Space 

Some companies choose to move into a new location because they simply run out of space. However, in many cases, I find that they can stay in their current space by making it more efficient. Putting complimentary departments closer together, removing dead inventory, improving processes to move stored goods, and repairing broken machinery are just a few ways companies avoided the costs of moving by becoming more space efficient. 

Chasing Customers for Information 

Sometimes inefficiency comes in the form of poor communication. If you are finding that you are chasing clients for information because it wasn’t complete when it landed on your lap by a salesperson or field rep, or multiple departments are creating vendor or client files rather than sharing information, you can benefit from a Lean Audit. 

High Employee Frustration/Turnover 

Finally, a lean audit is ideal for companies who experience high employee frustration and resulting turnover. Often times this shows a clear hole in a process – whether on the hiring side (are you doing the right things to get the right people?) or with internal policies. Do your processes create frustration? Where is information falling through the cracks? What processes, policies or procedures are killing morale? 

Overall, a lean audit helps to identify holes in processes and seeks to solve them, not just put a bandage fix. If any of the above scenarios sound like a problem you have been facing, I recommend we schedule a phone call to discuss your concerns and potential solutions. 

 

PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them, in a process we call a Lean Audit walk through. Providing consulting and lean process improvement training, we are ready to support your organizational goals. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert. 

Getting Lean in Business is Like Going on a Diet

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lean in business

Getting lean in business is a lot like going on a diet. As with most “trends” we see huge success, as well as those who come out to claim failure. The trend on the top of my mind when I think about this is the keto diet – the diet where people eat low to no carbs and high amounts of fat that changes the dieter’s metabolic state to that of ketosis. 

People jump on the diet and lose tens of pounds, but those who give up, usually state that it’s just too hard to maintain. Oddly enough, this is the same reason given for the failure of lean in business – lean principles are just too hard. 

Getting Lean in Business is Like Going on a Diet 

People who go on diets have a strong desire to lose weight. In the beginning, they are excited, motivated and determined to see the outcomes they desire. Many get going in their diet and then it hits – they want a beer after work… to order pizza on a Friday night… to grab a quick something on the road because they left that diet meal sitting on the counter by mistake… And then, all of a sudden, the diet seems hard. They get tested and have a choice: eat what they are wanting (not what they need), or keep their eyes on the prize. 

Digging Deep for the Root Cause 

Lean in business starts with management excited for the desired outcomes: more floor space and organization, better inventory management, fewer defects, higher quality, more profit. We do a walk-through and start learning about the processes and mission-critical steps and start asking questions. Things are moving along and then… they get tested. Why is the forklift sitting broken? Who is responsible for it? How long has it been out of service… wait, how long??? Why are you paying for custom envelopes? Why is there double entry?  

All the questions reveal root causes and expose old habits and behaviors. We do this to dig in deep to get to the source of the problem and uproot it entirely so it doesn’t return. But for some, this feels hard. It feels “redundant”. The irony is that redundancy is what we are working to remove. The time we are spending is actually correcting years of mismanagement of the process we are adjusting and improving. 

Success or Failure: It’s a Choice 

So, just like a diet, we can give up and try something else, or accept that we will always have that extra chunkiness, or, we can keep our eyes on the prize and make a commitment to seeing the end goal achieved. And, because lean digs in deep, the goal stays. “Lose the weight and keep it off” in lean becomes “Meet the goal and keep improving”. 

To prevent a lean failure, do the work. Buy in, work at it, rely on your coach when things get hard, and keep an open mind to create a curious company looking towards the prize of continuous learning, constant improvement, and a truly lean culture. 

 

PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert. 

Why Automation and Business Process Improvement Must Go Hand in Hand

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automation

Automation is a hot topic in today’s business world. Computerized solutions, mechanized systems, automated processes, auto-generated responses… these are the ways many industries, from banks to fast food to manufacturers, are looking to create a more consistent and efficient customer experience. Many companies are turning to BPM or Business Process Management programs, coaches, software and more to help them implement these automation practices. Some have done so, only to find the solution actually created more problems. Why did this happen?

In my experience, automation is put into place almost in a knee-jerk way for management to try to solve a problem they don’t quite understand. It becomes a ‘band-aid’ fix rather than the holistic approach it should be. The truth is that business process improvement and automation need to be like a hand in a glove, otherwise, it becomes just another failed attempt at efficiency and a short lived “Frankenstein” process.

The Goal of Automation

The main goal of automation is to produce better outcomes through a consistent, reliable end product. Often, this is for the benefit of the end user, or client. When a process works for the company, but not the customer, it ultimately will negatively impact the organization. Automation should enhance the customer experience, not only serve the organization. Here’s an example:

Bob finds the website of a widget he is interested in. He sends an email to the company asking a question about specs to make sure it fits his needs. He gets an auto response that the company has received his email. Within 4 hours, the company chat-bot responds to his email with an automated drip campaign that tells him to buy the widget, yet his original question remains unanswered.

This process appears to be customer responsive, but it really just buys the company time and doesn’t offer value to Bob. Meanwhile, Bob is likely to have shopped around, and maybe even make a purchase with a company who responded more promptly to his question.

Automation should be customer-focused and create real value.

The Role of an Automation Consultant

As a Lean Consultant, I work with companies who want to implement strategies that create true efficiency and add value to their clients, staff and/or vendors. By looking for trouble spots, holes and current processes, we can determine where efficiency is working well and where it could be tightened up. From there, we look at how automation can be implemented and the steps required to achieve the end results in a long lasting and effective way.

It is slowing down and taking a comprehensive look at all the steps and processes to make sure everything is a smooth and logical fit with the business and clients it is designed to serve. Not a one-and-done or quick fix, automation should be a robust tool that works with all the cogs of business to make it a truly holistic fix rather than a band-aid one.

 

PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement and automation expert.

Good Leaders Don’t Fix Problems, They Solve Them

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problem solving solution

One morning, while leaving the house for work I noticed that the driver’s side front tire on my car was low and unsafe to drive. So, I turned on the air compressor in the garage and waited for it to fill up with air, then proceeded to go to work. To my surprise the next morning the tire was once again low on air. I followed the same process and went to work.

The following morning, while again waiting for the air compressor to fill with air, I used Lean principles to analyze the situation. That evening I put the air compressor on a timer so I didn’t have to wait the next morning while filling the tire. I improved the process, making it more efficient by saving myself time. Or had I?

Problem Solving with Lean Methodology

There is a quote by Peter Drucker that says:

Nothing is more useless as doing something efficient which should not be done at all

I think that everyone knows what I should have done – figure out why the tire was losing air and get it fixed. It may seem obvious, and yet we do this all the time in business. Instead of spending the time to dive into problem solving, we just keep putting a band-aid on it. We believe it just takes too much time to find the root cause and develop a solution that prevents the problem from resurfacing. So, we keep ourselves stuck in a cycle where the problem keeps happening again and again while we overlook it, or create an inefficient work-around.

How many times would I fill the tire before it became greater than the time it would take to have the tire fixed? Truly it is clear to the objective observer that the solution was temporary. Very temporary.

If you were to ask your employees what their biggest issues in their workplace is, they will likely tell you that it’s the same problems not being dealt with, over, and over, and over again. I could bring up several quotes here, like this definition of insanity, but it comes down to doing what is right, not what is easy.

We as leaders have to provide those we work with the best opportunity for success, and that requires us to not just fix problems, but to solve them so that they never come back.

Don’t improve a process which shouldn’t be done in the first place.

PBEX, LLC can provide training on root cause analysis and problem solving to provide the means to prevent problems from reoccurring. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert.

Using Lean for a Successful Streamlined Sales Process

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streamlined sales process

Lean methodology started in manufacturing, but its concepts are so profoundly beneficial, they are now being used in a wide variety of business to streamline and improve processes. One of the ways this is done is through a streamlined sales process.

What is Lean?

Lean was created by the Toyota Production Company to reduce waste and increase efficiency. It incorporates several tools that deeply examine outcomes and question processes, in what is known as continuous improvement. Lean seeks to kill redundancies and create long lasting results and consistent work flows.

Lean and the Streamlined Sales Process

A streamlined sales process using lean, creates a more profitable end product. It begins by clearly documenting your current processes – this takes an honest look at what is and isn’t happening so it can be compared against the ideal, as well as what areas have ineffective waste in order to improve. It will reveal why there are inconsistencies, and what produces the desired results.

The next step is defining what the sales cycle looks like including how a prospect enters the funnel, how they become qualified, how they are segmented, and what actions they take to move through the sales process. All the steps taken, both by prospects, salespeople, administration, finance, marketing and production need to be documented and placed into the processes and sub-processes.

Improving Your Sales Process

Once you have examined your process, you will discover what is most and least effective and why. Look at what is missing as well as what is repetitive, redundant, and able to be automated. Make adjustments and track the changes. With improved tracking and a more efficient process in place, management is able to make better decisions resulting in a healthier bottom line.

 

PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. If you’d like an outsider’s look at any of your business processes, and/or want to obtain a more streamlined sales process, our consultants are your change managers! Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert.

Why Consider Lean Process Improvement Training

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lean process improvement training

If you have wanted to implement lean processes improvement in your organization, you may be overwhelmed with where to start. Maybe you have already begun the process and feel stuck or need help getting over a challenge. Or it’s possible you have implemented some lean strategies and are ready to take it to the next level. This may mean you need an objective set of eyes, such as a consultant, and/or lean process improvement training.

Lean management concepts have been around for years, reducing unwanted activities and creating more value with less resources. It focuses on creating a culture of continuous improvement that seeks to increase efficiency in a variety of ways. Through lean process improvement training, your team can:

  • Better understand Lean concepts including A3 Problem Solving, Six Sigma, and Kaizen
  • Learn the major principals of Lean, including the tools and definitions
  • See how Lean is implemented in your organization
  • Strategies for ensuring continuous improvement
  • See Value Stream Mapping in action
  • Review your workplace layout with a Gemba walk

And more, according to your needs. All training can be customized for your industry, business and organizational requirements.

Implementing Lean Processes

Implementing lean is a robust processes that takes time to develop. While some changes are immediate and impactful, creating the culture of continuous improvement means diving in deep and having the right tools. Management often needs training in order to understand the principles, buy in to the process, and build the skills needed to keep the implementation moving forward and effective.

 

PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Providing consulting and lean process improvement training, we are ready to support your organizational goals. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert.

Why You Should be Using a Process Flow Diagram

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process flow diagram

A process flow diagram is used to visually capture processes and create a standard of operations for anything from manufacturing to marketing campaigns to workflows. Typically used in industrial settings, the concept has grown to be used in a variety of applications in order to document business processes, and therefore make them more efficient.

When it comes to processes, we tend to take them for granted. If you have ever had to put together a training module or operation guide, you understand. Here is a simple example to show how a process can work with and without a schematic such as a process flow diagram.

Doing Dishes as a Process

There is a sink of dishes. Your teenage son acts as though he has never hand washed dishes. Therefore, you create a process for him to follow to get them done. This is not too far off from managing staff to follow specific protocol, agreed? We must simplify things, not because our staff are unintelligent, but because when it is easy to understand and we do our best to communicate well, we have a greater chance of success.

Sadly, most processes are assumed and/or inefficient. By creating a process flow diagram and really digging into the steps, that’s when we discover why we have output errors, productivity stalls, and redundancies. In lean management, these are considered waste and only by discovering the root cause of them can they be corrected with long lasting results (as opposed to a quick bandage type fix).

Back to the teenager with dishes…
Situation: A sink full of dishes.
Desired outcome: Dishes are clean, dry, and put away in their correct places by 5pm daily.
Known gaps between situation and desired outcome: In the past, dishes feel greasy at times; dishes haven’t been put away in the correct areas; it takes too long to remedy full sink of dishes.

In our example, we are going to list the current steps, plus, in parenthesis, expand each with a question to get to better communication.

When sink is full (What does full mean?), or by 4pm Sunday through Thursday:

  • Stack dirty dishes on the counter beside the sink basins. (Is there a way to stack to prevent breakage? Is there a specific area of the counter to use or not use?)
  • Fill one sink basin with hot, soapy water (How hot to get them clean and also keep teenager from burning himself? How much soap should be used?)
  • Fill the other sink with cool, clean water (How cool? When is the water not clean and need to be replaced?)
  • Using a scrubber sponge, take each dirty item and clean every surface. (What tools should be used to clean hard to reach areas? Is there scrubbing involved? How long should he spend on each item?)
  • Place the cleaned item into the cool water basin. Feel the item to check for remaining, stuck on debris and grease. If present, clean again with hot, soapy water. If not, place item in the drying rack.
  • Continue to wash each item, do quality check, rinse and set on drying rack until sink is empty.
  • Drain water from basins. Rinse the sinks so there is no remaining debris.
  • Dry countertop of any water.
  • Using a fresh towel, take each item and dry it and return it to its proper area. (Where are towels located? Where do they go when done? Is there a schematic for where dishes go that is easy to understand so items can be put away correctly?)

In this example, you may think that the questions in parenthesis are like playing devil’s advocate, and in some ways they are. Consider how differing results there could be (inconsistency), when these items aren’t clearly defined with a process flow diagram? This is particularly true when more than one employee is responsible for a task or set of tasks.

Additional Benefits to a Process Flow Diagram

Do you see also how the questions bring up the need for equipment? How about time spent? Quality and inventory control? Safety management? Do you see how it establishes expectations and uniformity? Can you see that some steps will create a sub-process that further communicates expectations and protocol? When it comes creating a consistent outcome, a process flow diagram process (and business process management) are the key.

 

PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert.

Want Better Processes? Start with Value

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process improvement expert looks at value

As a process improvement expert, I am called into a business to help them in a variety of ways, usually all to help the company’s bottom line. Sometimes this looks like reducing inventory spending. Sometimes it is increasing productivity through more streamlined processes. And other times it is less quality defects. While there are a number of methods I use to help us determine how to improve, one of them is to look at value.

Who Determines Value?

Economists have a philosophy of supply versus demand, and anyone who has taken a college level economics course has heard of it. Basically, it says that when something is in high demand and low supply, the costs go up (example: diamonds). Conversely, if a product or service is in low demand and is in high supply, the costs go down (example: fill dirt).

This philosophy then tells us that the market, or customers, determine our product or service’s value, but when we think about process improvement, do we go back to the customer to determine what would add additional value to them? Shouldn’t we?

Value Versus Waste

In Lean philosophy, we look at things as a “value added vs. waste” model. We consider steps or tasks to be value added when it transforms the product or service, the customer is willing to pay for it, and it is done correctly, the first time. When all three conditions are met, the business makes money. Everything else is considered waste and cost the business money.

From here, we break this wastefulness into eight categories of waste, and then, as a process improvement expert, we tackle each to create a truly valuable end result product or service for clients and a healthier bottom line for the company.

The Eight Areas of Waste (Non-Value Added)

When I begin to look at processes through the eyes of value to the customer, here are some questions that I may ask to get to the root of the process wastefulness:

Defects: How much do defects and rework cost?  Are there mistake proofing processes that can be implemented to reduce or eliminate defects?

Overproduction: Do processes meet demands? In which cases does it not match, resulting in piles of work waiting for the next process?  Are there people or equipment that are overburdened?

Waiting: Who is waiting for work to be completed and why? What is causing the “idle”?

Non Value Added Processing: What is being done that isn’t adding value to the end user? Why is it important?

Transportation: Between the processes, are there unneeded steps? Is there a way to simplify movement or transportation through the facility?

Inventory: How is inventory being managed? Is there dead/cold inventory? How are raw materials cultivated?

Motion: What is being moved around and why? Is there a way to lessen any movements, including those done by equipment and people?

Employees: Is the business getting the most out of their employees? Are employees empowered and engaged? Are there skillsets or abilities that are not being used?

 

PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more about lean business management and to schedule your review with a process improvement expert.