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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.

Using Lean for a Successful Streamlined Sales Process

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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.

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. 

 

How Lean Management Consulting Works

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(c) http://www.bloncampus.com

Lean management consulting and change management sit on the forefront of the most innovative leaders. Why? Because true innovation requires agility – a cornerstone in lean management, but without the cultural attribute of continuous improvement and the ability to get to the root of a problem or process and effectively manage the change for long term results, it is useless.

The best lean management consultants understand how lean tools work and are implemented effectively while also understanding the culture that is required to sustain it. And while the lean tools are simple and also revolutionary, the lean coach must be skilled in communication, training and strategy.

How do lean management consulting firms work?

Through Collaboration

Remember back to high school if you can and think about a time when you were assigned to work on a group project. What were your feelings about it? Where you excited to collaborate? Or did you find yourself loathing it, offering to do all the work so you could control the outcome, or accepting someone else’s leadership so you could sit back?

In business, the same games exist, and we understand why. Collaboration feels hard; some feel heard while others feel left out; some excel while others just accept the outcome without involved resigned to the belief that what they contribute doesn’t matter.

However, with collaboration we discover a greater buy-in by all involved. This creates true employee engagement leading to faster results and increased understanding.

Through Understanding

By getting to the root cause of concerns and asking questions to get to the real waste in processes, lean management consultants are able to make lasting shifts. For example, if wasteful spending on oversized envelopes (a real situation we’ve encountered) is due to the fact that the original supplier went out of business and no one knows or questions that, no resolution will result.

A third party, or “fresh eyes”, or in our case, a trained and professional eye, can more easily spot redundancies and inefficiencies in business processes and, using Lean tools will implement solutions for change.

With Real Results

Working with PBEX lean management consulting specialist Peter Holtgreive, clients have seen:

Improvement in Safety Performance (average 30-60%)

Set-up Time Reduction (average 60-80%)

Increased Productivity (average 20-50%)

Reduction in Quality Defects (average 50-100%)

More Floor Space (average 70-50%)

Less Dead Inventory (average 40-75%)

 

Overall, lean management consultants provide a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them.

Contact me today to learn more about lean management consulting services and how I help businesses simplify and improve the way they do business to better grow and manage. Together, we will create a continuous improvement culture and healthier bottom line.

What Makes a Lean Management Leader? 

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The topic of Lean Management may have started in manufacturing, but today’s businesses are looking to the tools to improve other industries as well. 

Created by Japanese industrial engineers, the concepts of Lean manufacturing were designed to reduce waste, in a variety of forms. And while developed mid-century, the tools are still being used as a standard in efficient management. 

Lean managers look to focus on providing high value to customers while eliminating wastefulness through improved workflows. The concept works to engage customers, vendors and employees in ways that create a feedback system for continuous improvement. 

What Makes a Lean Management Leader? 

Lean management involves everyone, yet the lean leader needs to be completely on board or “bought in” on the idea of lean practices and continual process improvement. Management must be willing and able to ask probing questions to get to the root of both problems and customer motivations. They must be willing to discover answers they may not like in order to challenge the status quo. 

Regarding Customers: 

Do you know why your customer buys from you? 

Do you know what they value about your business over your competitors? 

Are you able to anticipate their changing needs based on what you know about their values, wants, and needs? 

Do you know what improvements you could implement that would serve your customers even better? 

Regarding Your Team: 

Do you have a culture of blame and mistakes or one of “lessons learned”, which fosters a learning environment? 

Is problem solving guided with the objective of finding the right problem, root cause and establishing the right resources? 

Do you use open-ended questions? 

Is there a focus on processes and their actual, tracked results? 

Is there a plan in place to discover inefficiencies? 

Do you deeply understand the value stream, including sub-processes and their effects? 

Does the management team demonstrate Lean values and behaviors? 

Does management challenge the status quo? 

Does your Lean management team go to the action and use 3Gen? 

 

Gather the information to determine where you are as an organization and where you want to be in regards to lean management. If you discover you need support, a refresher, or even full implementation of lean management practices, consider PBEX, LLC, a leader in Business Process Management, Lean Process Management, Lean Manufacturing, and Organizational Lean Process Improvement. 

 

Lean Process Improvement and Inventory Management

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lean inventory management

Oftentimes manufacturing organizations find that while their production processes may run well, there is a need for improvement around inventory management. Lean process improvement tools can offer a huge benefit to improve inventory management. Businesses, especially those in retail and manufacturing are finding that lean process management helps them reduce costs, improve customer experience and increase agility, which all lead to increased profitability.

What is Lean Process Improvement?

Lean process improvement is an overall approach that focuses on reducing waste within processes. This waste can come in the form of more efficient use of materials, reducing redundancies and overlap in work flow, and creating more effective processes to improve employees’ work. Popularized through its success with the Toyota Production System, lean methodology is being used by efficiency focused organizations with a continuous improvement mindset.

How Can Lean Tools Help in Inventory Management?

Lean inventory management focuses on refining processes in order to improve quality, reduce cycle time, be more efficient, and reduce costs. By understanding the value of your inventory and the management of it, how it moves through your processes, and how it adapts to demands and lead time changes, organizations are better able to make management decisions and increase profitability.

Inventory management starts with understanding:

Independent and dependent demand needs. Do you have inventory to meet customer demand? Are Sales, Operations, and Production on the same page? Does everyone understand when and why demand fluctuates or how to make adjustments when it does un-expectantly?

Types of inventory you require. Raw material and equipment/tool management is just as important as deliverable products. Likewise, understanding what is currently in the process of being produced and/or delivered effects profits, purchasing, and customer service.

Associated Inventory Costs. Knowing how much time passes between when a product needs to be ordered in order to receive it in time for production (or lead time), ensures you never run out of product. Lean process improvement can be used to calculate holding, ordering, and shortage costs to reduce wasteful spending and costly downtime.

Why does it matter?

Lean process improvement of your inventory means:

  • Improved customer service (meet the demand)
  • Keep inventory costs low (keep what you need in stock and not more)
  • Know your reorder points and safety stock levels
  • Take advantage of quantity ordering when desired
  • Standardize processes for better quality output
  • Improve communication and collaboration between departments

Inventory Management Systems

Because PBEX, LLC focuses on overall systems and processes, we are software agnostic, meaning, we don’t sell inventory management systems. Instead we teach organizations how to improve current processes to make them more effective. If software is chosen to then support, and even further inventory management, it will be more efficient. In fact, you can expect to see:

A 50-100% reduction in quality defects

20-50% Improvement in Productivity

60-80% Set Up Time Reductions

30-60% Improved Safety Performance

40-75% Inventory Reduction

30-50% Floor Space Reduction

And a complete review of your business processes to create long-lasting efficiency, agility and profitability.

Contact me today to learn more about how as a Lean Process and Inventory Expert I help businesses simplify and improve the way they do business to better grow and manage. Together, we will create a continuous improvement culture and healthier bottom line.

Get New Employees Up to Speed Fast with Business Process Improvement

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In my years as a Business Process Improvement Coach, I have been called in to work with companies who have a new work force. In one particular case, a company acquired another, complete with an unskilled labor force, and needed to train them all quickly. The need for staff training can be created from mergers, acquisitions, seasonal or temporary employment, or a jump in production demands requiring increased staffing. It can also happen when employees are transferred to a new department, or with any big shift in management or restructuring. What if management took a proactive approach to change?

The need for business process improvement is always noticed at times of transition. Fresh perspectives can offer feedback and this feedback should lead to improvements. Whenever new job positions are created, or new employees require training, business process improvement can get everyone on the same page and be more effective than ever before.

Business Process Improvement and Human Capital Management

Human Resources is a highly documented, regulated, and important responsibility. With payroll being the highest expense in most businesses, efficiency and productivity in the area of Human Capital Management can make a huge impact on the bottom line. Overall, employers are seeking business process improvement in the areas of:

Increasing Employment Engagements. There are many distractions that can vie for an employee’s time. How do we decrease these distractions in a way that maintains high morale and improves engagement?

Increased Workflow Productivity. What systems, technology and processes can be put in place, automated, and tightened up? What training is needed to increase productivity?

Reducing Employee Turnover. Some turnover will always be expected, as people, places and circumstances change. However, high levels of turnover, or even turnover above the expected attrition, lead to hidden expenses and loss in productivity. What is frustrating and unaddressed in our workforce? Where can we be proactive, rather than reactive in relationship to staff management?

Reducing Onboarding Time. When we do have employee turnover, how can we shorten the time it takes to recruit, hire, train and get employees to the level of production we require?

How a Business Process Improvement Professional Helps

Business Process Improvement Professionals, such as myself, have an objective, trained eye to see what’s working and what’s missing. Through several assessment tools, we are able to pinpoint redundancies, holes, strengths, weaknesses and more. We can create job descriptions, job instructions, build processes, and improve current workflows to maximize effectiveness and engagement. By creating consistent business processes that take into consideration what the assessments are telling us, we can get everyone on the same page, and quickly up to speed in becoming a successful, productive, and happy member of your work force.

Contact me today to learn more about how I help businesses simplify their human capital management through business process improvement strategies. Cleaner processes create faster results, better productivity and employee satisfaction. Together, we will create a continuous improvement culture and healthier bottom line.

Dealing with a Frankenstein Business Process? What It Is and How to Fix It

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I have the privilege of working with forward thinking businesses. These businesses know something isn’t quite right, but they can’t always put their finger on it. I’m called in and using a variety of techniques, discover and correct workflow holes and implement process improvement.

Birth of a Process

The first time that a series of steps are performed to complete a task, a process has been born. I use the word “born”, instead of developed, as rarely are processes designed. A business process exists because someone saw the need for something to get done. All of our daily activities are conducted through processes, some are good and some are poor. We recognize the poor processes typically through things that frustrate us. For example, standing in line for hours waiting for a representative to take five minutes of their time to explain the many pages of forms required to fill out. Poor processes can be the state they are in due to something I call a Frankenstein Business Process.

Typical Development of a Business Process

Most processes change many times. They may change in response to changes in technology, changes in products or services and/or changes in customer requirements.  Most often, however, a business process changes for various other reasons, not always in a way best for a business.

One of my responsibilities when working with a business is to ask why they do things the way they do. The typical response is that no one knows why and that it is how they have always done it. One business I was called into found themselves in a state of panic and urgency because the company they relied on for their envelopes had gone out of business. It was an important part of their workflow and they weren’t sure how to manage the change.

It turned out that the specialty envelopes were ordered once because the standard ones were not available, and they continued to order believing there was a requirement for them when there really wasn’t. On the surface, this may seem to be a small issue, but it really created a great deal of problems as a new vendor couldn’t be identified and it was effecting their production to not have this particular and critical supply.

In this case it was envelopes, but in another scenario, it could be a change in adhesive, for example, that effects the final product output. This, in turn could also affect price, skills needed, equipment changes and more.

The Frankenstein Process

Over time, business processes will naturally change. We hire new employees with a mix of education and experiences who change the processes to try to make them better, or in response to poor performance of the business. These changes become a “Frankenstein” process, that is, steps have been added or removed without really looking at how the process works overall. Processes like these are ingrained with wasteful, frustrating and unproductive steps that end up costing a business money, or worse yet, employees or customers.

I believe it doesn’t matter how great your product or service is, your business is only as good as its processes.

Innovation’s Opposite

The biggest curse to innovation is that of “We’ve always done it that way”. When we really look at the need, regardless of how things were done before and independent of the fixes that were put into place, we can discover waste and inefficiencies and replace them with new, improved processes that are long-lasting, rather than quick, Frankenstein fixes that eventually fail.

Contact me today to learn more about how I help businesses to simplify and improve their business process making them easier to understand, perform and manage. Together, we will create a continuous improvement culture and healthier bottom line.

What is Value Stream Mapping?

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Businesses who have an end product, such as in manufacturing, use Value Stream mapping to help streamline activities, find holes or bottlenecks in their processes, or gain more clarity about how information and materials move through their organization. Value Stream Mapping is one tool of Lean Manufacturing.

Both Value Stream Mapping (VSM) and Value Stream Improvement (VSI) are sometimes used interchangeably, but the subtle difference is that VSM focuses on manufacturing and VSI is used more for the entire organization, including in non-manufacturing areas such as front office processes. It can be used in a variety of industries and I have used it successfully with a library, a software company, a county workforce agency, a construction company and others.

More and more businesses are looking at this Value Stream Improvement model, regardless of industry, to accomplish their goals.

“…Lean is much more than manufacturing. Peter Holtgreive led our software company into Lean with impressive results through value stream mapping and several kaizen events for our services and finance teams.” -Scott Ford

What is Value Stream mapping?

Value Stream mapping is a visual tool that defines information and material flows within a business. It clarifies responsibilities, practices and workflow with the overall goal of increased efficiency. Efficiency can come in several forms, such as reduced costs of production, increased productivity and less waste, just to name a few.

Value Stream Mapping Example

(c) wikipedia

Value Stream Mapping can be used for processes of all types including employee onboarding, role and/or workflow clarity, accounts payable or receivable, warehouse functions, purchasing/working with vendors and more. It can be used to maximize consistency in every department of an organization and can be accomplished online, offline or a blend of both.

As a tool for efficiency and effectiveness, it can be used to create an ideal scenario versus actual scenario, to help make changes in management, processes and even culture. VSM looks at how well all of the processes work together, focused on material/service flow and information flow. There are typically many metrics included in each process step and in a lot of cases it goes through many departments, usually starting at initial client contract through to invoicing.

Value Stream mapping takes a specific objective and helps to measure and compare that objective alongside the entire organization’s objectives to make sure that all processes are aligned with the company’s values and capabilities.

How do I begin Value Stream mapping?

Value Stream Mapping usually begins with a designated team of people from inside the organization tasked with leading the project. It is also recommended that “outside eyes”, a consultant or Value Stream facilitator, be present to help guide the conversation and point out holes that may be overlooked by people who are seeing things day to day.

Here’s a specific example of this: I went into a company to facilitate a Value Stream Mapping session on how they receive sales orders for their custom made products.  Once we mapped the current state it became obvious how poorly the entire process was working causing frustration throughout the company.  As outside eyes, I was able to point out and address both a waste and a broken process they wouldn’t have addressed without me.

In Value Stream mapping we:

  1. Plan the event by defining the scope and collecting data.
  2. Extract the knowledge of those who do the work, create a snapshot and visibly show how the process works or doesn’t work – the Current State.
  3. Identify opportunities for improvement throughout the value stream where the processes can work better together.
  4. Design the Future State map ensuring that the opportunities improvements are taken into account while maintaining alignment with the mission and vision of the company. Create a project plan on how to get from the Current State to the Future State.

After the Value Stream Mapping is complete, we track, measure and manage follow through to make sure the new process is working as intended. We adjust or correct as needed.

Value Stream mapping is an effective tool for bringing clarity and efficiency to processes in business. As your outside eyes, I help you by facilitating Value Stream mapping and other efficiency boosting, non-software based solutions that can be implemented quickly and easily to reach the goals you are desiring. I often use VSM to find out what the rest of my engagement with a client might be, as it really helps us develop a plan on how to get where they want to and what needs to be done to get there.

Contact me today to learn more about how Value Stream mapping can simplify and improve your  business process making them easier to understand, perform and manage. Together, we will create a continuous improvement culture and healthier bottom line.