Friday 26 November 2021

Eliminate losses to improve processes for project

The first thing that needs to be done to improve processes is to eliminate losses. Some losses can be eliminated relatively simply. Others will require major organizational and process changes.

In the last article, we talked about the tools that allow you to detect losses in business processes. It is time to consider approaches to eliminating losses.

How to eliminate and improve processes. 

Groups of approaches

We have structured approaches that allow us to eliminate losses and improve processes into 7 groups:

  • Workplaces and location – this section contains approaches that allow you to eliminate losses arising from the inefficient location of workplaces.
  • Equipment - approaches aimed at eliminating the time losses associated with equipment downtime.
  • Processes are approaches to changing processes, for the comprehensive elimination of losses.
  • Products – here are collected approaches that allow you to improve the processes of working with products.
  • Management – organizational approaches to eliminating losses.
  • Staff – qualification and motivation. That says it all.
  • Documents and information – approaches to working with documents that reduce losses in "office" processes

Before you start reading, please note that even if the approach is illuminated through the prism of production processes, this does not mean that they cannot be used in other types of processes. Use your skills to find applications to the principles behind the approaches. The principles are universal.

Workplaces and location

Change the location of workstations and storage locations

Insufficiently efficient arrangement of workplaces, equipment, storage places for raw materials, materials and tools leads to the fact that employees are forced to perform unnecessary operations and movements. By studying the movement of employees and products, you can change the location of workplaces in such a way as to reduce, or even eliminate, unnecessary movements and related operations.

Visualization of routes

Visualization of travel routes is a well-known technique from the arsenal of the Lean Manufacturing methodology. The essence is very simple: the routes of movement are marked with colored lines or "corridors". 

You have probably met such guidance lines in airports, hospitals and shopping centers. Visual designation of the route allows you to gently direct the movement of employees along a specific, predetermined, route. This makes it possible to somewhat reduce the use of undesirable travel routes and reduce the level of unnecessary movements.

Visualize storage locations

Another Lean Manufacturing tool. Visual labeling of storage locations makes it easier to find materials and tools. The use of visual cut-offs in the places of storage of raw materials allows for timely replenishment of storage facilities. Together, this allows you to reduce the time of operations related to work in storage locations, eliminate unnecessary movements and operations.

Use of mobile individual workplaces and storage spaces

An interesting solution that allows you to reduce unnecessary movements and some operations. The idea is that instead of employees going to the right materials and tools in storage places, place everything they need in mobile complexes. The solution is relevant when employees move between product or equipment locations. Mobile workplaces allow the use of Kanban principles, when an employee receives everything that is necessary to produce a unit of production in one "box".

Mobile storage locations are used as buffers between regular storage locations and employee workstations. This reduces unnecessary movements, allows you to improve processes and increase the useful time of specialists. A different type of staff can be involved in replenishing mobile storage spaces.

Workplace Optimization

Not the most efficient organization of workplaces is a common problem. In the Soviet Union, there was a separate direction called the Scientific Organization of Labor. This direction was engaged, among other things, in the optimization and standardization of jobs. The point is that all elements of the employee's workplace are arranged in such a way as to minimize unnecessary, ineffective actions. Optimizing workplaces also involves taking care of the employee's health. Which is very important in the long run.

A simple example: changing the location of employees and their tools along the conveyor line allowed us to increase the volume of processed products by almost 3 times.

The question of proper organization of workplaces is very often neglected, but in vain. An effective place allows you to eliminate unnecessary operations and increase the speed of performing other operations.

The 5S Lean Manufacturing approach is designed to optimize workplaces.


Reduced change-of-change time

Equipment reconfigure is a matter that many simply have to put up with. But not everyone understands that the changeover time is, in fact, a simple equipment. In the case of high-load, continuous production, reducing the change-of-way time becomes vital. 

The less time it takes to readout the equipment, the less time losses. Yes, in some cases, reducing the change-of-change time may require very major changes. Including the modernization or replacement of equipment. Expediency depends on the expected economic effect. If the increase in useful time is "beaten off" in a reasonable time, such a project should be implemented. In lean manufacturing, there is an SMED approach that improves equipment read writing processes.

Increase equipment resiliency

Equipment downtime can also occur due to failure. And what should be done to increase the fault tolerance of the equipment? Right, ensure proper operation and timely preventive maintenance. The TPM approach improves hardware resiliency and reduces downtime.


Optimization / reorganization of business processes

The most extensive and effective approach that allows you to significantly improve processes and eliminate all types of losses. Process optimization includes a significant part of other approaches to eliminate losses. And if the elimination of losses leads the processes at the "point zero", to a normal state, then the optimization of business processes is also aimed at their development and improvement.

Grouping operations and processes

One approach related to processes is to group operations and processes. Grouping is done in order to execute a "package" of actions that uses the same resources. Batches can include the same type of actions, for example, batch processing of mail, documents, and so on.

The point of combining activities into a package is to avoid operations related to switching from one activity to another. After all, even switching between tasks requires an employee to have some effort and time.

Standardization of business processes

Bringing certain business processes to the standard allows you to eliminate the losses associated with the variability and variability of processes. 

The more predictable the process, the higher its efficiency, all other things being equal. Standardization allows you to synchronize processes with each other, with a high degree of accuracy. Also, standardization will allow you to effectively plan and provide processes with the necessary resources.


Ensure product compliance

The more precisely product requirements are defined, the easier it is to align processes to meet them. As a rule, it is the absence of requirements that increases the likelihood that the product will be subjected to excessive processing.

To avoid this, it is necessary to formalize the requirements and organize the process accordingly. This does not mean that the requirements should be defined entirely from the beginning. 

Some flexibility in the process can be envisaged. To do this, it is necessary to build into the process the points of clarification of requirements. 

This means that the process is broken down into several stages. Each stage carries out work strictly in accordance with the requirements. But after the end of the stage, the requirements are clarified in order to form a set of operations for the next phase. A flexible approach allows you to significantly improve the processes.

Use of samples, standards and standards

An excellent solution is to use product samples and standards. Samples illustrate the expected end result of a process or step. The standard allows you to describe the requirements for the process and its results.

That is why I very often insist that managers give their subordinates samples of documents that they want to receive from them. The use of samples, together with a description of the requirements and the process of work, avoids systemic deviations in 90% of cases.

Implementation of end-to-end quality control system

In some processes and situations, it is better to replace the step-by-step refinement of requirements with phased, end-to-end quality control. Control should be carried out in stages having the greatest variability, the possibility of deviation from the established set of values and requirements.


Organization of the pulling production system

Pulling production is a system of organization in which the supply of raw materials and materials to the production site, or workplace, is carried out exactly at that time, and exactly in the quantity that is needed at a time. The introduction of a pull production system is not the easiest project. 

It requires changes in the production planning system, logistics processes, the introduction of a certain accounting and feedback system, as well as the restructuring of production processes and infrastructure. But it's worth it. The introduction of a pulling system of production allows you to eliminate many losses, including the two most resource-intensive: overproduction and packing.

Equalization of the production pace

Equalizing the production rate, unlike the pulling system, does not require such serious transformations. The essence of alignment is that each production site is synchronized in time and volume of production with dependent and dependent areas. This makes it possible to provide production sites with raw materials and semi-finished products when it is needed, in accordance with the production plan. 

Yes, one of the key differences from the pulling system is that the alignment is carried out on the basis of the calculated data and is laid down in the production plan. 

The effectiveness of alignment depends on the accuracy of planning. It should also be borne in mind that the production plan must be revised with each change in the parameters that affect it. And for this to work, we need a developed system of production planning, with the ability to quickly transfer updated tasks to production.

Organization of production in small batches

By reducing the volume of production batches, overproduction and over packing can be avoided. As the batch size decreases, the manageability of the production cycle increases. Yes, this may require changes in the production planning system and increase other losses. But the decision should be made on the basis of a comparison of the benefits received and the costs / losses. Simply put, it is necessary to compare the effectiveness before and after.

Optimization of the production planning system

A lot depends on how effective production planning is. In turn, the effectiveness of planning depends on two components: the planning system and the methodology. I want to draw your attention to the point that the production planning system, as a rule, includes a certain methodology, but the methodology must be adapted to its processes. 

For example, many companies have been seriously affected by the fact that they tried to introduce a lean manufacturing approach in a "raw" form. Any, even the coolest methodology requires adaptation.

It is worth noting that effective production planning systems include feedback-based adaptation mechanisms. And this allows you to organize a pulling system of production and / or dynamically equalize the production pace. To improve production processes, you need to start with planning.

Implementation of a workload management system

The use of task management systems performs many management functions in production and non-production processes. Simply put, the use of a task management system can significantly increase the efficiency of "office" processes. Such a solution, together with the correct methodology, avoids many types of losses.

Set up information movement notifications

Often, loss of expectation and unnecessary actions are associated with a lack of feedback. The use of systems that include the ability to configure notifications allows you to eliminate this drawback and, accordingly, reduce losses. Such solutions include: task management systems, electronic document management systems, corporate knowledge bases, and so on.

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