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How COVID Taught Us the Value of Being Adaptive in Business

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Photo by DICSON on Unsplash

While COVID-19 had started to spread in Wuhan China late in 2019, it’s spread to the US was late January, with it being declared a pandemic in March. For those of us business owners and leaders, this pandemic has taught us quite a few things. From a macro level, it showed us how important contingency and emergency plans are. It shows us the value of forecasting and diversifying and being adaptive in business. 

Imagine if any of us had thought in December of 2019 that our businesses, suppliers or vendors may be shut down? Imagine if any of us, just 3 months earlier, had the insight to prepare for workforce, school and even restaurant closures. If we had a glimpse into the future, months before the national emergency and subsequent shelter-in-place orders, how would we have planned differently? 

There is no way to plan for every emergency, but frequently I find many businesses have not planned for ANY of them. Some may have planned once, but haven’t visited those policies since the day they were photocopied and dispersed. However, being adaptive in business means not only do we have a plan, we review it. In lean methodology, this is known as continuous improvement.

What we learned from the restaurant industry 

One real life example of how I saw companies being adaptive, both successfully and not, was the restaurant industry. Many restaurants had been offering “to-go” options prior to the restaurant shut down from COVID. Some restaurants quickly were able to scale up this business component, while others really struggled. 

One famous Italian chain of restaurants allowed us to order online, but when we showed up, there were cars all over the place. After two staff came out to talk to me, a third brought me the wrong order. It was clear online ordering was set up, but the specific location had no systems in place to help the process go easier when it came to getting the food out the door. 

To contrast this, we also went to a Mexican restaurant, and when we ordered, we were asked what color and type of car we were driving. When we arrived, parking spots were marked and someone came out in just a few minutes after we arrived, with the correct order. 

Where does this happen in your business? 

When has your business needed to adapt to a change and it went well, or poorly? 

The main component to being adaptive is communication. What needs to change? How do we implement this shift? How do we communicate the new processes? How will we know if it is working or not? Who else needs to have a say in this? 

Do you have systems in place to navigate adaptations, regardless of the source? Is it time to? Next time change comes, will you be ready to shift gears?

 

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.   

 

Supply Chain Interruptions and Inventory Management in Crisis

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Sometimes it takes a global pandemic to reveal holes in our business processes. Some industries have felt the sting of supply chain interruptions and inventory management.Did you run out of supplies? Did a supplier shut down? Was the demand placed on your business increased or decreased?

Likely, your business faced some sort of change in these recent events, and while it is (hopefully) unlikely we will face anything of this magnitude again in the next hundred years, being prepared for disasters needs to be a part of our business plans. 

Lean Methodology in Times of Crisis 

Lean methodology looks to eliminate waste and improve efficiency – it is the opposite of hoarding. However, that doesn’t mean prudent supplies aren’t on hand. Using a visual inventory method, we make it easy to know when to restock – but what if your supplier suddenly goes under? Whether from a natural or man-made disaster, businesses have seen this happen for decades. 

While developing process maps, it is the role of a Lean Consultant to look at all areas where there could be disruption that creates inefficiency. When done well, we overcome these obstacles proactively. Of course, no one can predict the future or prepare for every possible outcome, but strategic planning around the most likely potential problems helps us resolve most of them, or at least allows us to have some agility in the face of crisis. 

The Case of Envelopes 

In one specific organization I worked with, there was a supply chain issue that was causing company-wide problems. It was an issue with semi-custom envelopes and a replacement couldn’t be found. These envelopes were used for sending out a uniquely large invoice, and because of this, invoices stopped going out, causing cash flow issues. 

We looked at alternates for envelopes and found a solution that saved money on both envelopes and invoices. Because this was a reactive fix, it took some time to implement, however, we were able to adjust and smooth into a new process. 

Being Proactive to Avoid Supply Chain Interruptions

Instead of being reactive, a proactive approach could have anticipated a supply chain disruption and allowed us to make changes to avoid or lessen the impact. The only way to really be proactive is to audit current processes and examine where there are potential problems, and then stay on top of those with a continuous improvement mindset. 

Looking at processes deeply helps us to understand where we currently are and what adjustments need to be made if, all of a sudden, demands increase or decrease. It allows us to make changes quickly to capture opportunities, rather than fail as we slip into holes we didn’t know existed. 

Change will always happen in business. Whether large or barely significant, they can give us space for improvement if we are open to learning. 

 

If you are ready to be proactive, or have found some holes now that need to be filled, that’s my expertise. 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. 

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

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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.

 

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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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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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.