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© Transition Support  Last Edit 15/12/2017 00:29:20 

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Process Improvement

What is process improvement?

Process improvement is that part of process management which drives beneficial change in process performance. In the diagram to the right, process improvement drives changes in results, processes and the goals and measures.

Improving results

Improvement in results can be accomplished in many ways. One way is by improving the ways by which the results are being measured - achieving greater accuracy and precision. Another way is to push more through the process - increase throughput. Therefore more customers generate more orders that generates more revenue. Failure to achieve the target might be simply not making enough product, not serving enough customers. But the most common way is to get the process to do what it was designed to do. Results can often be improved by running the process with the planned resources and executing the tasks as planned. Failures are more often the result of people not running the process as planned - they take short cuts, make mistakes, don't take action when necessary. They are also the result of not providing the necessary resources - the people, plant, machinery. Failures often result from poorly maintained plant and equipment - clearly indicating that the resource management process fails to provide the desired results.

Improving processes

Improvement in the process is about finding better ways of doing things ie doing thing right. Achieving the same results but with less resources in less time. For efficiencies to be found, one has to examine the sequence and interaction of tasks within a process particularly the number of interfaces. Processes can be made more efficiency by reducing the number of transactions, the number of different people involved. Automation may improve efficiency but may also introduce a level of complexity that is prone to failure.

Improving goals and measures

Even when the process delivers results that meet targets and is run lean, there is still room for improvement - perhaps one of the most important types of improvement. If the process goals are not the right goals, no matter how well the process performs, it is ineffective - ie it is not delivering the right things. When the supermarket was dealing with a few suppliers, it was not concerned about whether the products were packed on the pallet the same way. But now they have automated their receiving process,  the goal has changed. The need product packed on pallets so that the identity is visible when the good are stacked in the warehouse.  In a similar way, the measure of on-time-delivery might be product ready to ship by due date but on examination it transpires that the customer requires product on site by the due date.

Testing whether the right goals are being aimed for requires constant vigilance, asking not whether we are doing things right but whether we are doing the right things to satisfy our stakeholders - because their needs keep changing.

More on process improvement can be found in Parts,10 of the ISO 9000 Quality Systems Handbook 7E