Thursday, 31 January 2013

Optimum Process Versus Optimum Steps

Time spent training people to perform specific aspects of their work does not mean that an optimum process is born.

An optimum process is not the same thing as having 'standard operating procedures' (or SOPs). A process is a collection of steps, the correct sequence can radically change the overall time required to complete a process.

Optimum Process
The optimum process is often hiding in front of you

The optimum process is often buried within the average performers process, the key is to uncover the optimum process and fix the training.




Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

How do you manage your capacity?

One of the central issues to any business is how do you manage your capacity. Getting this wrong can result in poor delivery performance, confusion within the business and unhappy customers.

Do your capacity levels fluctuate wildly?
Many businesses have some form of software (such as project management software, ERP / MRP etc.) to help do this, but what about businesses that don't have this support?

Regulating your capacity is all about knowing what you have committed to and when. Many businesses that don't have a formal system do have some kind of paperwork or spreadsheet system to help with their day to day management. Adding some simple capacity information to these systems can be quick and straightforward to do and can give you a surprisingly quick improvement to the level of control you have over the operational side of your business.

From visual management ideas with your paperwork stacks, to an additional (hours required) column in spreadsheets, all this needs is a little bit of ingenuity and a bit of experimentation.

What would your business systems need so that you can manage your capacity more effectively?



Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Improving your on time delivery performance using your MIS


MIS Overview

Most businesses have some kind of MIS (Management Information System) that is designed to drive the actions of the business. Whether you use CRM, ERP, an online project management software application, or a spreadsheet, they all can count as a MIS. Over time the quality and usability of that system can wane and leave the business with a less than effective tool for running the business.

Correcting this situation is not difficult. If this is something that irritates you as you strive to achieve a consistent on time delivery performance (with the accompanying high level of customer satisfaction and business profit) then read on.

Lack of understanding

One of the most common reasons I have come across for a MIS system losing effectiveness stems back to a lack of understanding of, and around, the system being used. There are two issues here that I would like to quickly touch upon.

The first is the lack of appreciation by team members of why a healthy system is required. As time pressures mount it becomes quite normal for people to cut corners with their tasks in order to relieve the pressure. When this behaviour leads to database entries not being completed fully, or shorthand being used unnecessarily, it can have a knock on effect down the line. In this instance the person who is cutting the corner does so because they don’t appreciate the issues this can cause further downstream. Education, possibly with the aid of a process map, can help users appreciate the importance of completing tasks thoroughly (e.g. if I don’t do this then they have do this additional work).

The second issue is a lack of practical knowledge about how to use the system. Quite often this is seen with newer members of the team who have been trained by internal members of staff who themselves are not entirely sure about the functionality of the system. This can lead to workarounds being created, methods of working that are external to the main system. I have seen businesses who are driven entirely by their workarounds and who wonder why their business performance is so hit and miss. Creating practical, user based, instructions (such as ‘Standard Operating Procedures’) and combining these with a skills matrix is a good way to resolve this issue.

Trust the healthy system

When the data is right in a business system we can use it to help make the right decisions at the right time, getting rid of the unnecessary tasks surrounding the MIS. This means that we can spend more time working on achieving the goals of the business and less time running around like headless chickens.




Giles Johnston

Monday, 28 January 2013

Do You Suffer from the Hockey Stick Curve?

One of the more interesting phrases I have heard when discussing on time delivery performance is the 'hockey stick' curve.

You know the sort of thing I mean (see below). Your business outputs very little in the first couple of weeks of the calendar month, and the last week or two look like everyone is running on rocket fuel! The rate of change in output is huge and once again the business achieves its turnover target.
Interpretation of the 'hockey stick' curve.
Skeptics may say that although work is invoiced it isn't produced until the next calendar month, which accounts for the low levels of output in those weeks.

So what?

The important question is what do you do about it if you recognise this pattern occurring in your business.

Finding out if you have an uneven order book is essential to find out if you have a throughput issue or a loading issue. Loading issues can be rectified easily by balancing out the order book (and coming up with a better 'Contract Review' process longer term).

If you have a throughput problem then you can start working on your bottlenecks, one by one until you achieve a consistent output that meets your production targets.

Either way you need to find out what is causing this frustrating effect and then do something about it.

Realising that there is a problem, however, is one of the most effective first steps in any kind of business improvement!



Giles Johnston
Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer


Friday, 25 January 2013

Are your SOPs based on best practise?

SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures, are often written by people who understand a process, not necessarily the people who know how to do it best.

Finding the few people who know how to do it best, in practise, in real life, and getting them to define the optimum process can do a lot to help improve a process' performance. Apart from the obvious savings to time there could be quality improvements, customer satisfaction improvements and more.

Who's writing your business' SOPs?



Giles Johnston

Smartspeed Consulting Limited
Taking the frustration out of on time delivery.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Understand your MRP reports

If you are running an ERP / MRP system a good question to ask is ‘do my staff understand the reports they use?’

I have visited many businesses over the years who use such systems and it still staggers me how many of them don’t really understand the information that is provided by the system.

Not only can this cause issues with delivery performance but it can create additional work, bloat over time requirements, inflate working capital and generally produce chaos in the workplace.

Periodically it may be worth your while to review the core system reports with your teams to see if they can be improved and ensure that there is correct understanding of how to use the reports within the group.




Smartspeed Consulting Limited
Taking the frustration out of on time delivery.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Continuous Improvement: Getting into the swing of things

I was listening to a gentleman talking yesterday about writing and 'getting into the swing of things' for gaining both competency and efficiency. Although technique can impact performance enormously, putting in some time and repetition can also be invaluable, and then my thoughts wandered to business improvement activities.

If you take Continuous Improvement for example, if you don't put in the time and effort to get the right kind of conversations going, or exercise your problem solving muscle, then the quality of the ongoing efforts will be poorer than they could possibly be.

Developing relationships with people to facilitate Continuous Improvement discussions also takes time and effort. One of my best experiences, in one of my latter jobs in industry, took about three months of daily conversations to get one chap to come on-board  When he did come on board through it was worth all of the effort. And I say effort, it wasn't really a difficult process to speak to another human being politely, just persistence. It turned out that he just wasn't sure why a manager would bother speaking to him! He was sceptical, but my repeated small talk and interest won him over.

So, if your Continuous Improvement approach isn't working the way that you would have hoped then consider this; are you really getting into the swing of things, or do you need to spend some more time on it?


Giles Johnston

Smartspeed Consulting Limited
Taking the frustration out of on time delivery.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

On Time Delivery Kit

The On Time Delivery Kit has now arrived.

It's a full kit, available via immediate download, for you to use with your team to improve your business' on time delivery performance. The files are provided so that you can modify the documents and tailor this approach for your specific needs (instructions are included).

The kit includes:
  • Instructions
  • Staff Overview Presentation
  • Meetings Timeline
  • Meeting Agendas
  • Meeting Forms
  • Examples of Forms
  • Audit Forms
  • Contract Review forms
  • Scheduling Agenda
  • Fine Tuning Worksheet
  • 7 Mistakes to Avoid White Paper
For full details, and to buy, please visit the On Time Delivery Kit page on our partner website.



Smartspeed Consulting Limited
Taking the frustration out of on time delivery.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Are you planning for a Happy New Year?


Happy New Year, I hope that this message finds you rejuvenated and ready to take on 2013’s challenges. As with every year January is a good time to review last year’s performance, and to identify opportunities to improve the level of service you offer to your customers as well as the level of profit you can achieve from doing so.

For some businesses this can seem an overwhelming challenge, as you can end up with a long list of improvements you could undertake. If you find that you have too many to deal with at this moment in time then it might be worth your while prioritising and scheduling the improvements based on their relative impact, cost and ease of implementation.

If you are struggling to come up with a list of improvements then reflecting against the standard metrics of Quality, Cost and Delivery can be helpful. Any other measures that you use in your business can also be considered, it is all about finding something tangible for you to reflect upon and generate ideas against.

Whereas New Year’s resolutions often fade, we can help ourselves by choosing a quick win from our list of improvements, something to get people inspired and something that has a real impact on their day to day working. As making continuous improvements is all about undertaking deliberate changes, helping the team around you to get more involved is essential. The common name for this ‘tiny step’ approach is Kaizen and giving small pieces of work to people is a good way to help them gain confidence in making changes and also to let them develop at their own pace (the only pace that works long term).

Business improvement is often about finding ways to get the right conversations happening (and following these up with action), so I hope that 2013 is a year for great conversations about your business.

P.S. If you are looking for a simple framework for your business improvement conversations and were treated to a Kindle for Christmas then please check out our book on ‘Business Process Improvement’ via Amazon.




Giles Johnston

Smartspeed Consulting Limited
Taking the frustration out of on time delivery.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Waste Walking: A Great Way to Start Lean Initiatives in Any Business


When I have been asked to deliver waste walking workshops for my clients it has often been seen as a one off exercise, to give the business a one off jump in performance. Whilst these workshops do allow us to identify and plan improvements, waste walking is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to business improvement. At the heart of Lean (manufacturing) is the conflict between value adding activities and waste generation. The aim of Lean is to eliminate waste, ultimately allowing you to provide your customers with better products that are delivered in line with their demand whilst giving you a healthier profit margin. This method is a doorway to a larger world.

One of the main reasons why waste walking is such a good way to get into Lean is that this process is really easy to learn. Best of all, waste walking actually addresses the eighth waste, untapped human potential, as it gets the people who do the job involved with improving it. It is widely recognised that the people who do the work, day to day, understand the processes far more intimately than their managers do. Going for 'a walk' can marry the insight of the operator with the leadership and direction of the manager brilliantly.

Whilst it might be seen as a diversion from doing 'real work', the time spend identifying ways to improve the business can be invaluable. All you need to do is choose a route through your business and then work as a group to spot the commonly recognised wastes; defects, overproduction, transportation, waiting, inventory, motions, inappropriate processes and untapped human potential. It's a bit like a grown up version of 'eye spy'!

Like most Lean techniques, waste walking can be started small and built upon. Starting small takes away the fear people have about trying new things and can quickly be ramped up on the back of the successes. By starting small you will generate less improvement ideas, but you will also be in a better position to implement the ideas. Getting some early wins from your waste walking and then providing positive feedback to the group will encourage them to take part in the subsequent waste walks, and ultimately in Lean transformation projects as they develop.

So, use waste walking as an entry point to your Lean improvement activities. This approach can be fun, can reveal a whole raft of improvements that have gone unnoticed under your nose so far and can help improve with workforce engagement. Lean is still a great approach to improving a business, so use waste walking as your opportunity to embrace this set of tools, and take your team with you on the journey.



Giles Johnston is the author of many short guides on business improvement, his author page is http://amazon.com/author/gilesjohnston. A full waste workshop kit is also available to download here: http://www.systemsandprocesses.co.uk/waste_pack.php.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7428651


Avoid mistakes with your SOPs!