The goal of continuous improvement is to provide the customer, with the highest quality, at the lowest cost in a shorter time. For a shorter time, your processes need to flow without interruptions or obstacles. How do you achieve that? Yes, you guessed it, you have to identify and eliminate waste. These are the steps that you can use to improve the flow.
- Start with your longer processes to assure biggest impact on the operation.
- Define the value of the process from the customer lenses.
- Go to see the process.
- Breakdown the process in steps and ask what is the purpose, why it is necessary?
- Can you combine or eliminate steps?
- Can you rearrange steps to improve flow?
- Can you reduce or eliminate waste?
- Can you move equipment, machines or workstations closer together to minimize distance?
- Is it possible to reduce work-in-process inventory?
When you go to see the process, walk through the entire flow, and observe where it stops. Waste is usually a symptom of obstacles to flow. Every time you see work-in-process inventory, defects or errors, people waiting, excessive motion, or longer than necessary transportation, you are looking at things that stop the flow.
When you improve the flow, you are reducing the process cycle time. That is how you will be able to deliver your product or service faster to your clients. Reducing or eliminating waste is also a way to reduce operating expenses in the form of inventories and defects reduction.