Many people understand the phrase “improving your company” to mean reducing costs and improving profits. Certainly every business wants to improve profits, however, there are many ideas that may not seem to have a calculated payback but definitely improve the way your teams conduct business.
Continuously evaluating your work processes and procedures in both manufacturing and office areas can improve productivity, efficiency, throughput time and save money.
The commitment to improving processes and procedures is the “proof” to your employees that how the work gets done is important. This commitment stresses the importance of the physical space in which you work, the tools your team has to work with, the speed with which the team can perform their work and the quality they can achieve.
Japanese manufacturing embraced this concept of elimination of muda, or waste (time, physical waste, scrap, etc.), and their approach popularized improvement tools such as kaizen and 5S. What you call your improvement program or how well you utilize each new-wave tool is not as important as committing your team to getting better every day.
Any improvement program should always start with the way the company and individual teams are organized. The objective of this analysis is to determine how departments or teams can be streamlined or reorganized in such a way as to not only cut costs but increase effectiveness and productivity.
Appointing team leaders that can improve work flow and manage daily activities may allow your supervisors and managers more time to work on strategic positioning issues.
Once your organizational structure is redefined, make sure you evaluate this structure at least every year. Next you have to concentrate on the physical space in which the work gets done. 5S is a system designed to reduce waste and optimize productivity through maintaining an orderly workplace and has probably been utilized in your company in some way, shape or form.
The 5S pillars are sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. Provide a methodology for organizing, cleaning, developing and sustaining a productive work environment. Basically, these are routines that encourage employees to reduce waste and unplanned downtime and focus on workflow.
A typical 5S implementation would result in significant optimization of workspace, including things such as shadow boards for placement of all necessary tools and equipment.
Processes and procedures
Most small companies rely on “tribal knowledge” or the collective knowledge and secrets that each team member has in his or her heads about how to get the work done. This knowledge needs to be documented, not just for any new employee’s sake but for continuity between shifts and for historical record, especially if the knowledge directly relates to producing a product.
Once this initial documentation occurs, it is important to continually modify these written procedures as new ideas and better ways of conducting the work are found.
At Clark-Reliance, we have a manufacturing engineering group that works with all departments to codify processes and procedures and update them with new approaches. We have a program called Ideas Develop Excellence Advantage and Success that recognizes and monetarily rewards employees for making a suggestion that improves the workplace or processes.
The word kaizen means “continuous improvement.” It comes from the Japanese words ? “kai” which means “change” or “to correct” and ? “zen” which means “good.”
In most cases, these are not ideas for major changes — it is a process to always be improving productivity, safety and effectiveness while reducing waste. The kaizen philosophy is to “do it better, even if it isn’t broken, because if we don’t, we can’t compete with those who do.”
Embracing continuous improvement will lead to elevating the standards and expectations of your entire workforce. You will find improved efficiency, productivity and reduced costs, but perhaps most importantly, you will experience enhanced customer service for both internal and external customers. <<
Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multidivisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation and a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors.
Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.