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.