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Business Process Modeling for Improved Results

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business process modeling

Psychologist Howard Gardener wrote in his book “Frames of Mind” about 9 types of intelligence. The theory showed us that people can excel in certain areas more than others, and that intelligence isn’t limited to just ‘book smarts’, science, or math. 

This is exciting news because it frees those of us who may not have been good in a particular subject in school from feeling generally stupid. We can now focus on the areas of intelligence where we do excel, and find others to support us in those we aren’t as strong. 

For some, processes come easily, while others over generalize them and then wonder what isn’t working. Often what I find is that people become blind to challenges or problems because they lack perspective. 

How Business Process Modeling Improves Results 

Business Process Modeling helps to overcome this blindness and can further utilize a variety of intelligence in order to improve outcomes. Let me offer an example: 

ABC Manufacturing wants to hire workers who will perform one of five tasks. They need to know their own roles, but also how it fits into the bigger picture. They also need to perform it to a required standard and consistency. 

Using a Business Process Modeling strategy, each position can be mapped in a way to allow every worker to be trained to meet the performance goals and expectations, breaking it down in ways that every person can understand to be set up for success. It also allows each worker to see how the flow of work matters to the whole. 

Furthermore, it helps everyone see how or why bottlenecks can occur and how to adjust for these possibilities if they arise. It gives management to front line the opportunity to discover holes that can lead to waste in time, talent, and materials, and make proactive changes towards greater efficiency. 

My Intelligence is Business Process Improvement

My intelligence, as a business consulting firm specializing in Lean, is in logical-mathematical and spatial understanding. I use tools such as business process modeling to help unearth areas of waste and inefficiency and adjust them for long-lasting and continuous improvement. 

We implement change that positively impacts the bottom line of companies that hire and train, provide a consistent product or service, and who are looking to improve efficiency, production and outcomes. We do this with a number of tools, including business process modeling. 

 

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 how a lean consultant can help you, and to schedule your organizational audit with a business process improvement expert. 

Does Your Business Want to Learn to Fish with a Lean Sensei?

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image of someone fishing

Along with personal New Year’s Resolutions, there are also business ones. We often spend time each year reflecting on our numbers and then come up with strategies to improve them. For some, improving numbers means increasing sales or efficiency. For others, it means reducing accidents (and insurance claims) or inventory waste.

These needed changes are often discussed over boardroom tables, and other times are given as directives from upper management. Unfortunately, just like personal resolutions, business goals can start strong and then lose ground, sometimes ending up in a position worse than where they started. This is when consultants are often called in.

The Problem with Consultants

Consultants, with a wide variety of specialties, are often called in to help management fix a specific problem they are having. This is like hiring a personal trainer when your goal is to increase your fitness levels. The consultant or trainer takes some background information and starting metrics and then prescribes an action plan.

You then implement that plan, along with accountability from the consultant. While the accountability is in place and you continue to implement the plan, goals materialize. Everyone celebrates! However, too often, once the accountability is gone, there is a sliding back, or even a maladaptive behavior, and this creates a bigger problem than what you started with.

When someone from outside the business comes in, they bring with them the benefit of a fresh perspective, but, if they only give a solution, without really understanding the problem, they will create a bigger fish to fry.

Learning to Fish

Lean consultants often carry the title of Sensei. They do this because unlike consultants, who show up, solve a problem and leave, they look for the root cause of the problem to begin with. A lean sensei doesn’t simply offer a quick fix, but rather seeks knowledge. They don’t look for the “fish” that will solve a problem, temporarily changing results, and celebrating prematurely. Instead, they learn about the lake that is the business at hand, the fish that occupy that lake, and the best bait to use.

When a lean sensei works with a business, they seek to understand how holes got into the systems and lead management into processes that help them discover and solve those on their own. This way teaches managers concepts they can use going forward, rather than giving them a single solution. Instead of a fish, a lean sensei teaches the business how to fish.

 

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 lean sensei.

 

A Roast, a Business Process, and a Lesson

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business process

Since Thanksgiving and other winter holidays are upon us, I thought I’d remind you of a story you may have heard that illustrates an important principle… it’s the story of the Holiday Roast. 

The Holiday Roast Story 

One Thanksgiving, Wendy was preparing for the big mealseasoning the roast she was about to place into the oven, when her husband Mark came into the kitchen to help peel potatoes. Wendy was chopping carrots to add to the pan, when Mark noticed something peculiar and asked, “Why did you cut off that chunk of roast?” 

“Oh,” Wendy answered, “I don’t know. It’s a family tradition. We always cut the end off of the roast.” 

“Hmm, I wonder why,” Mark asked aloud, prompting Wendy to call her mother. 

“Mom, why do we cut the end off of the roast?” 

“Well, I did it because your grandmother used to do it. I think it makes it more tender,” Wendy’s mother replied, prompting Wendy to call her grandmother. 

“Grandma, why do we cut the end off of the roast?” 

“Wendy, I don’t know why you do it, but I did it because I was feeding a family of 6 and the roasts we would buy never fit in my baker. I cut off the end so it would.” 

The Frankenstein Process 

In this story, we see the origination of a tradition, that was built out of a necessity for a single person’s “process”. The next person to observe and learn, simply went through the motions of repeating what they saw, without knowing the “why” behind it. By the time it got to the third person, she took it for what she thought it was – tradition. 

This happens all the time in business, and leads to what I call a “Frankenstein process”. Often one person creates or tweaks a process that better fits their needs, and this gets passed on without anyone asking why. 

As a lean consultant, it’s part of my job to ask why. Together, we look through what’s working, and what isn’t and follow problematic processes back to the beginning, like Wendy did in the above story. We uncover why something isn’t working, and go back to the roots, so we can address it at that point, making it more effective and efficient going forward. 

Wendy’s grandmother came up with a solution, and the solution worked for her, but when a solution begins creating waste, lean methodology dives in and creates a better solution for current productivity – not just what worked in the past. If you frequently say (or hear), “I don’t know, we’ve just always done it that way,” it’s probably a good time for us to chat. 

 

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. 

Are You Fixing Problems or Solving Them?

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Have you ever been to Qdoba? It’s a casual dining restaurant featuring Mexican food. The other day I was there and watched a particular employee wipe down tables and chairs after diners left. He had a smile on his face as he did his work. That was until he got to the trashcan.

He wiped the area clean and looked into the trash bin opening and frowned, throwing his towel down. He fiercely opened the cabinet and pulled out the trash can and reached in, pulling out several silver trays – these trays are how the delicious Qdoba food is served.

He slammed the trashcan back into place, threw the dirty trays into his busboy dish tub and marched to the back. A few minutes later, he returned with a sign – handwritten in thick black marker the words, “Don’t Throw Away the Trays”.

How long do you think this solution lasted? I know for one, I personally didn’t throw my tray in the trash. But was it a complete solution? What else could be done to solve the problem, rather than just apply a temporary fix?

Fix Versus Solve

Fixing a problem is usually quite quick. Someone seems a problem and creates a knee jerk reaction to fix it. It takes into consideration a limited scope of information. In the above case, the busboy, while ambitious, used only his perspective to determine the problem and a fix. You likely know that Qdoba is a chain restaurant – did the busboy’s sign fix the problem of disposed trays at any other location? What was this problem causing other franchisors? Was this a problem worth solving?

Solving a problem, on the other hand, looks at the bigger picture to get to the root cause. It takes in more perspectives to find a long-term solution. In fact, when I meet with companies who have a big problem to solve, there is quite a large impact on their bottom line and just a fix won’t do.

Making it Hard to Fail

When we look at creating a solution, we look to create one that is mistake proof. We make the process SO easy, that it is hard to do wrong. We set people up for success. Lean isn’t the only process that does this though – think about some of the solutions you’ve seen in everyday life to help us, and others, not fail:

  • When a waitperson brings a diet soda with two straws to indicate it is diet
  • When we try to start a car when it’s not in park
  • When you can’t push ‘start’ on your microwave unless the door is closed

Solutions don’t need to be complicated, they just need to allow little to no room for error. Companies who think about processes and how to make them foolproof, rather than just letting them happen, are more successful.

Now, Back to Our Story

The above story about Qdoba is something I made up, but it paints an important picture. To solve the problem, they made the opening to the trash can too small for the silver trays to fit. They also placed a label on the shelf above the trash that clearly, and kindly requested that all silver trays be returned to that spot. This made it fool proof. If a patron tried to throw away a tray, it simply couldn’t be done. It would also trigger them to take another action, such as placing it on the clearly marked shelf, or, in the worst-case scenario, setting it back on the table where they ate. Either way, this which allowed the busboy to pick it the trays up, rather than dig through the trash for them. Problem solved!

 

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 and start solving problems, rather than just fixing them.

Is Storing Cold Inventory Costing You More Than Replacing It Would? 

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5S Organization

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As a Lean Consultant, one of the tools I use is the 5S Organization System which is particularly helpful when it comes to reclaiming space. In fact, storage issues are a big reason I am called into organizations. They need more floor space… they are moving into a new space… they realize they have dead inventory and don’t know what to do about it.  Often when I go into businesses, I discover they have become “blind” to the things they are storing that they don’t need. In some of these cases, this storage costs more than replacing the actual supplies being stored. 

This can happen when the parts become obsolete, or there is no process in place to handle these supplies, either in inventory, scraps, returns, or defect management. This happens a lot in Research and Development, in Engineering, and with business founders. In fact, business owner have a tendency to store personal items on property, creating a problem with space, but that’s a topic for another article. Today, we will address the 5S Organization System. 

5S Organization 

The 5S Organization System is part of Lean Methodology and consists of the components: 1. Sort, 2. Set in Order, 3. Shine, 4. Standardize, and 5. Sustain. Some companies choose to add a 6th S: Safety. Overall, this process helps organizations increase floor space, reduce costs, create a safer working environment, and increase productivity. 

Sort. This is the first step and its where we go through all the equipment, supplies, and tools in an area and sort based on who needs it, for what purpose, and frequency of use. We take into consideration the value of the items and the best location for them – which may include the dumpster, storage, donations, or even re-purposed in another area. 

Set in Order. After sorting and moving items out of a space, we then process the remaining assets. Logical arrangements are made to allow access to the right equipment, supplies and tools by the right people at the right times. Organizational systems such as bins, hooks, shelves or files may be used to reduce chaos. 

Overall processes may be examined to determine the best flow and to discover holes that would cause this problem to resurface. Care is taken to not create additional waste, which includes wasting time and resources. 

Shine. Shine refers to cleaning up the area. Often when items are stored for long periods of time, dust and debris can build up. But Shine isn’t just a one-time project. Shine puts systems in place for continuous organization and cleanliness of the area to prevent future equipment failure, inventory overstock or neglect. 

Standardize. Where Shine may feel janitorial or maintenance focused, Standardize addresses the root cause of the disorganization so it can be addressed proactively as much as possible. It creates processes, schedules, diagrams, task lists and more to create a culture and system of organization. 

Sustain. Sustain brings the organization into the future, keeping the changes in place. It keeps the fix from being a temporary solution. Anytime a new system or process is implemented, it will take time to get used to. After time, it can start to morph, so “checking in” with the process is a part of Sustain to make course corrections, or adapt the shifts for increasing efficiency. 

A Real World Example 

I was called into a company who was moving into a new space because they had too much “stuff” and needed help sorting so they knew where to move everything into the new space. We used the 5S Organization System for this project, as it was the best solution. While sorting, we came across three boxes that had the original tape from when they were shipped, 4 years prior. When I asked what they were, no one knew. So, we opened them. We looked into the boxes and I asked, “Do we need these?” 

The response I received was, “Well, I’m sure we do.” 

We asked around and discovered the boxes were holding supplies for a project that had been abandoned 3 years earlier. We kept going through boxes, determining what could be sold, donated, re-purposed or trashed. We ended up filling two dumpsters. Had they done the process prior to making the decision to move, they may not have needed to. 

 

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 the multiple tools, including 5S Organization, and to schedule your review with a process improvement and automation expert. 

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.