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Getting Lean in Business is Like Going on a Diet

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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.

The 5 Concepts of Lean Thinking Summarized

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Lean thinking is really conceptualizing lean principles and how they apply to a specific enterprise. Because Lean principles started in Japan with the Toyota Production System, its primary application has been in manufacturing. Today, Lean manufacturing has been growing in interest and popularity as more and more companies look for increased agility, faster to-market production, and stream-lined processes that reduce wasteful practices. Its implementation has even spread outside of fabrication into a broader business use. 

Whether in lean manufacturing or lean management in other industries, five primary principles have been established to capture the goals of lean. These concepts were captured by, and summarized here based on the book “Lean Thinking” by Womack and Jones. And while the concepts themselves are simple, the implementation takes time as perfection is the final goal. 

Lean Thinking Concept 1: Value 

Value is what is delivered, and set primarily by the customer. What the consumer is willing to pay should be the goal of production to meet that value and also provide profit to the producing company. For example, if a consumer is willing to pay $10 for a widget, the company should use that value as their benchmark for production, eliminating waste and improving processes to meet customer expectations. 

When customers are having their expectations met and companies are making profits, this is considered perfection. 

Lean Thinking Concept 2: The Value Stream 

Understanding the flow of the life-cycle of a product is the only way to truly eliminate waste. The Value Stream concept examines the flow from production to disposal of any given product to find areas where value is lacking and can be improved, or where processes are wasteful. Some wasteful processes may be unavoidable due to certain circumstances such as lack of technological advances or access to resources.  

The awareness that is created in regards to the wasteful processes allow them to be corrected or improved for better outcomes. 

Lean Thinking Concept 3: Flow 

Flow refers to the state by which all processes are in alignment making production move forward without interruption. As wasteful practices are eliminated, production increases. This includes processes that previously halted product launches and to-market deliverables, something critical in today’s market where agility, speed and quality are of tremendous value. 

Flow is the state where wasteful down-time no longer exists. 

Lean Thinking Concept 4: Pull 

Lean concepts tend to reduce cold inventory because rather than relying on forecasting demand, they put in place communication and manufacturing methods that allow for production on the fly – as customers order. 

What if “busy work” was eliminated and production only happened when a sale closed? It’s a revolutionary mindset and manufacturing concept that both increases efficiency and output. 

Lean Thinking Concept 5: Perfection 

While we have all been taught that nothing is perfect, lean concepts are rooted in achieving perfection through continuous improvement. When an organization truly implements lean tools and concepts, they strive to get to the root of problems, never using a “band-aid” approach for fixes, but rather really dig into data and processes, and be willing to change based on feedback. They in essence create agility in business by being perfectionists focusing on lean. 

 

Contact me today to learn more about lean thinking and how to apply it to your business to create more efficiency and profitability. Together, we will create a continuous improvement culture and healthier bottom line. 

 

Great Business Management Starts with Efficient Systems

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business managementWhen it comes to managing our businesses, we discover it always comes down to systems. Whether systems for sales, production, administration, inventory, human resources – the more effective and efficient our processes, the better we maintain the consistency needed to produce our desired results. 

Automating these processes becomes the next step in creating, and improving the bottom line goals and outcomes. Often management knows this, but yet somewhere along the line, the linear path from input to output seems to get skewed. It’s bound to happen when machines break, new human error is introduced, consumer demands change, new technology becomes available…and plans aren’t in place to address these constant, yet often unpredictable changes. 

Business Management Consulting 

Business Management consulting allows an expert outside perspective come in and take a look at these changes in an objective way. It helps organizations to slow down in order to course correct for better effectiveness. Lean business management consulting adds the additional benefit of also cleaning up processes, organizing tasks to reduce waste, and systematizing processes that have been pieced together over time, or that have failed to exist. 

What is Lean Business Management Consulting? 

Lean management is a set of tools, tried and true business management techniques that create a culture of continuous improvement. By asking “why” and getting to the bottom of processes with a robust and complete understanding of it, allows for consistency, systematization and, when applicable, automation. 

This in turns creates proven results such as an increase in productivity, increase in work area space, decrease in dead inventory, improved safety, improved customer satisfaction, reduced defects and more. 

An Analogy to Understand Lean Management 

To truly understand how lean management works, it may be helpful to consider an analogy: 

Mannie Facture is experiencing pain in his wrist while working. He goes and sees Dr. Getterdone who recommends he wraps the wrist with duct tape, as it is strong and will reduce the appearance of swelling. He gives Mr. Facture a few pain killers and sends him on his way. 

 

This is like most business operations who see a problem and do what they can to make a quick fix, which works, but it may only be a short term fix. It is far from holistic, unlike the second approach, which is more like lean management: 

Mannie Facture goes to visit Dr. Excellence who takes time to ask Mannie about the severity of the pain, what his daily workload is and his previous health history. Dr. Excellence listens to his heart, as it effects every part of his body, and looks at not only what is causing the wrist pain, but what other conditions may be present. He offers physical therapy to help strengthen the wrist, elbow, and shoulder, which provides a more robust, long-lasting and supportive solution. 

 

Business management that is done as “spot treatments” rather than holistic approaches results in inefficiency and even failure. A business consultant, particularly one who specializes in Lean Management, can help get your business back into shape before a collapse. 

 

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. 

What is a Kaizen Business System and Why Does it Matter?

kaizen business system

A Kaizen Business System is a productivity philosophy in business, related to Continuous Improvement, and often demonstrated through Lean Management. It focuses on business processes and searches for inefficiencies, seeking to explore them in ways that get to the root of the problem to implement long-lasting change, profitability, high service levels and less waste. It creates a standard and culture for excellence and innovation. 

Kaizen is a Japanese term that generally translates to “change for the better” and business owners who employ its strategies can see better relationships with vendors, employees and customers. These relationships create real results in quality, efficiency, productivity and more. 

The Tools in a Kaizen Business System 

A Kaizen Business System is more of a philosophy and set of tools implemented to create an outcome, than a tangible, or even software-based program, but tangible equipment and software can be used within it. 

Overall, continuous improvement is robust and thorough, which also means time consuming in some cases, however, it does create complete, holistic and lasting results. This type of process creates more “buy in”, and produces a tangible outcome, not just theory. To get to its objectives, several tools are typically implemented, usually at the hands of an experienced Kaizen Business System Consultant. These steps can include: 

Sort. Determine what you have and what you need. This can be skills, employees, materials, equipment, vendors, etc. Sorting is taking an inventory to determine the real gap and how to correct it. 

Standardization. Examining processes and looking for redundancies and inefficiencies, then creating an organized and repeatable business process. This is huge in many businesses as department cross-over may have different people doing the same task, and/or doing it differently. It can make employee training problematic, data collection incomplete, and can even halt production. 

Measuring. Measuring data helps determine if a business process is efficient and if it can be duplicated, predictable, consistent and used for decision-making. Without quantifiable data, decision-making is really just a guess and can lead to loss in productivity, profitability, and quality. 

Compare. When you have data, you can compare it against your goals, objectives, and standards of operation. From the comparisons, you can address the performance gaps and improve your desired results. Again, without data, you are making a guess as to what the gap is, and therefore ineffectively addressing it. 

Innovation. Work smarter, not harder and continually look for what isn’t working or what may work better. Innovation culture starts with the desire to grow, and growth doesn’t happen without addressing failures and inefficiencies. Getting to the true cause of a problem creates real solutions. 

Sustainability. Really getting clear on processes helps create business processes and a continuous improvement culture that is sustainable and reliable, even in the face of change. When questions are asked and processes are viewed objectively, it cuts through “band-aid” fixes sure to fail. 

 

Overall, continuous improvement, Kaizen business system, and business process improvement are one in the same, implementing a full breadth of tools, techniques and philosophies resulting in better outcomes. As a Kaizen business system consultant, PBEX, LLC is ready to dig in and really understand your processes to create standardized, sustainable, profitable and agile business processes for your growth. Contact Peter Holtgreive today to learn more or to get started.