If you’re in the world of manufacturing, you’re well aware of lean and Six Sigma. Some companies are addressing inventory practices; others are trying to change their manufacturing process for efficiency. Some are doing both. While these are all correct, and implementing best practices in these areas delivers significant gains, there’s still a missing piece. Very few companies turn to their office to address their entire process. The process before the manufacturing floor can have more waste and delay to the customer than production.
1. Understand the whole process
Many companies implement systems to avoid communication. They create lengthy forms to answer all questions and remove human contact when passing information. This could cause extra work in a previous process, especially if the request is simple. Don’t solve for the worst case scenario, be willing to have a conversation with the people impacted. It takes less time to discuss it initially than to go back and forth many times during the process.
2. Connect with departments across the company
Transactions affect every person or department in the chain. Each department generally creates a way to operate, sometimes in a bubble. They develop their procedures and encourage everyone to follow them. The hand off to the next department is generally where you see the impact. How often do you hear grumbling about "they just don’t get it," "why can't they do it the right way?" People, in general, will not consciously do something wrong, they likely don’t know how the next department needs the information.
3. Understand the internal processes and where it can delay customer orders
When a customer places an order it doesn't go directly to manufacturing. There are processes that happen before the product is made. This may include specification review, approvals, procurement and other necessary steps. Delays that can occur in any of these steps, and the customers feel them. Know where the problems are and work to correct them before they impact your customer.
4. Do everything with the customer in mind
Solicit customer feedback often. Make sure their priorities are your priority. If you are doing something because that is just how it is, but the customer doesn’t want it, you are wasting your time. Your processes should be created to meet their needs. Your customers are your reason for existence and their satisfaction fosters your partnership.
Communication and teamwork within the organization can save time, money and headaches. Consider who is before and after you in a process and find a way to include them if needed. Understand their process so you can work together as efficiently as possible. Great solutions come from people who are most familiar with the process, give everyone a voice to improve.