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Business Process Improvement

Some improvement ideas under the heading Attacking waste - Time

Periodically review the management of time, using the following logic.

1. Unproductive new initiatives

By new initiatives we refer to venturing into new market areas, developing a new product or service, reacting to proposals that land on the desk of the CEO, etc. All such initiatives need o be evaluated in terms of their objectives, target markets, return on investment, available resources, associated risks and only those that survive the test pursued.

The pursuit of unproductive and unevaluated initiatives not only wastes time but also wastes the emotional energy of the management team. A potential problem area is where the CEO has a gut feeling that an initiative will succeed even though it has not stood up to the scrutiny of a review and is being pursued simply to please the CEO.

2. Review time taken to complete each stage.

Review each stage and see if there is an opportunity to reduce the time taken to process the stage. If so measure the current time for processing and discuss ways of reducing the time with those responsible for supervising the stage and those responsible for performing the work. Remember to start with the bottleneck if one has been identified as to reduce a stage that is not a constraint may not make overall savings for the process. Measure reductions and reward / recognise as appropriate.

3. Repeat errors waste time, money and energy.

It is frequently not necessary to carry out an in-depth review of the process to determine whether repeat errors are occurring as the management team will already know where this is occurring and have this information available to them.

Failure to properly investigate the root cause of a problem and to commit resources to eliminating the root cause is usually the cause of repeat errors. Question how the system allows mistakes to happen twice and change the system to prevent repeat errors from occurring.

Never stop at human error as the root cause of a problem always ask the question 'How did our system allow human error to occur on that occasion, at that point in our process and under those conditions?' Refer to our list of causal factors of human error in our Knowledge Bank.

4. Over prescription.

Over prescription comes in many forms, in the management system, in the design and specification of goods and services or in the specification of materials. In the management system it usually comes in the form of including unnecessary requirements or too much of the detailed ‘how to undertake a task’ for those tasks that should rely on competency as the assurance of quality.

In design it takes the form of using a previous design and adding additional requirements without removing the superseded original requirements. This generates waste in many parts of the process, at tender stage when all bidders have to read and quote to the requirements, within the supply chain where suppliers have to read and quote for unnecessary requirements and at acceptance of supplied and fabricated items when these items have to be checked against the requirements.

In materials it takes the form of specifying a higher grade of material than is strictly necessary to fulfil requirements, often because the designer has used a previous specification.

5. Unnecessary activities waste time.

Team members are frequently asked to undertake ad hoc activities and over a period of time these may no longer be required. Question whether activities add value by using a tool such as time analysis.

A particular example of this is the inefficient management of in-house or external meetings, which can waste time through late, start, inefficient decision making, late finishing, lack of clear agenda, wrong attendees, etc.

6. Review waiting and/or transporting times along the process

Waiting to receive information, material, components or plant/equipment can cause waste so a review for time spent waiting can identify potential savings. Similarly reducing transportation times can save money and this is frequently demonstrated in manufacturing, where the flow of material through a facility is streamlined to achieve minimum transportation times between process stages.

7. Idle plant and equipment is a waste of resources

Review the amount of unproductive time allocated to plant and equipment and see if there are efficiencies to be made by hiring or alternate use of the plant or equipment.

Question whether facilities are being used to their full capacity and question whether they are consuming energy when not in use.

8. Time spent on the retrieval of material, equipment or data that has been incorrectly stored or archived is costly

Data has already been covered under Working Smarter – Data management. Accessing information that has not been stored effectively wastes time whether it is in hard copy format or electronic format. The same applies to material and equipment in a central store or a site store.

9. Inaccuracy wastes time and energy

Inaccurate information/data: ensure that those entering data understand this and know the rules so data is entered into the correct fields. Data entered into incorrect fields in databases will mean that any print runs will be inaccurate. Ensure that those using data know what to do when they discover inaccurate data.

Inaccurate materials and equipment: ensure that those specifying, ordering, inspecting issuing, handling and using materials understand this and know the rules. Ensure that those using materials and equipment know what to do when they discover inaccurate materials or equipment.