We all use processes on a daily basis, most us just don’t realize it. We have a process for getting ready in the morning, a process for going to bed at night, a process for driving to work, a process for driving home when we are done. I think you get the point; our lives are full of processes. Businesses and organizations are no different. They are full of processes, some well defined and some undefined.
The Secret to Success
I firmly believe one of the biggest factors between businesses that are successful and those that aren’t is the successful ones know and understand what their business processes are and focus on the improvement of those processes. The reason the understanding of these business processes is so powerful is that the organization that understands how it gets things done can also understand how to improve the efficiency surrounding that process, minimize costs, and increase profits. That is a powerful tool. It is easy to see how a firm grasp of your processes can help you to increase the efficiency of your business model, thereby making the actions required to execute the processes lean in nature.
Efficiency Studies and What They Mean Today
Around the turn of the last century massive studies focused on the efficiency of workers and the processes in the plants they worked in. These human factor studies began to help business owners understand that slight modifications of even the smallest step in a production process could net significant increases in productivity. The concept of lean process improvement is similar to these early studies in that it seeks to identify possible bottlenecks and constraints within established processes and minimize or eliminate them where possible.
Consider the impact on a production line where a bucket of bolts is placed just out of arms reach where the mechanic may require a full second to reach the bucket, retrieve a bolt, and place it in the designated product. Now consider identifying that as a constraint on the production time of that particular product and as a result moving the bucket of bolts closer to the mechanic. This move cuts the time it takes him to get the bolt in half. For one bolt this may not seem significant, but over the course of 100,000 bolts the company saves 50,000 seconds. By making all processes lean, production time is greatly reduced, more products are made, and more profits are generated.
You do not have to be a rocket scientist to enhance the business processes in your organization. There are many solid books (The Lean Manager: A Novel of Lean Transformation), certification programs (Lean Six Sigma, ITIL), and websites (http://cpd.asu.edu/cme/ ) out there that can provide you with enough information to get started. As with everything, there is a learning curve involved, so take plenty of time to read through the materials and do your research. If you decide the topic of lean management is above your head, you can approach organizations like Arizona State University and ask them to help you with process identification and engineering.