Reliability and capacity improvements require commitment from both Maintenance and Operations. But how well do your operational processes perform to ensure your business is operating to the best of its ability? Most businesses have a large number of existing operational processes which have developed over time. And most have some level of frustration with these processes, but the people in the organisation feel unempowered to change them.
The key comes down to the size and complexity of the business. Operational processes and procedures are in place to ensure a standardised approach to all activities performed. No organisation can afford multiple ways to accomplish activities, nor can it afford additional opportunities to induce failure from a lack of defined and standardised operational processes and procedures. People use processes to harmonise the interaction between Maintenance and Operations as a means to drive reliability and capacity improvement across the organisation.
Beginning the journey of improving operational processes usually comes from selecting a process that frustrates people in the business, analysing this, and coming up with a solution but also realising that you can’t fix the issue in the first sitting. Reliability and capacity improvements require a commitment from both Maintenance and Operations.
- Do your operators have written procedures for the operation of production equipment?
- What about startup checklists and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for changeovers as an example?
The quality of the operational processes in place will determine the value and regulation of efficiency. Poor processes can lead to rework, duplication of efforts, errors and mistakes. All of this amounts to extra time, cost, energy and effort to service customers. Of course, this leads to cost and lost sales, which has a significant impact on the business. Most businesses measure this poorly so are generally unaware of the losses they are suffering.
Some of the tell-tale signs your business’ operational processes are negatively affecting its ability to operate to its full potential can include:
• Poor staff morale
• High levels of frustration
• Customer complaints
• High employee turnover
• Retention issues
• Loss of key customers
• Lack of repeat business
All of these have a direct effect to the bottom line of your business. And if left undealt with, you can experience great loss at the hands of the poor systems in place.
Often times, the challenges that are faced when implementing world-class and lean processes in office spaces is that people simply cannot see the inefficiencies or the waste in their processes. The common heard phrase ‘it’s my job to follow up with the Sales Team to make sure the order information is correct’ is a perfect indication of this – individuals see this step as part of their job/routine rather than unnecessary waste.
Processes provide a solution. They can transform inputs into outputs - these inputs and outputs can be vary from materials, to information, to people. But on the whole, they are in place to create a world class office through improving performance, growing capability and sustainability.
Knowing whether your operational processes achieve this involves a certain amount of clarity and self-awareness: being able to remove yourself from the business and analyse if your processes are allowing for product development, order fulfilment, higher customer satisfaction; and perhaps a less obvious point of strategic resource allocation and effective decision making.
By simply reviewing your systems and actively seeking to improve and refine these, you can expect to improve your customer experience while avoiding unnecessary costs. Ultimately, you will grow your market share and outperform your competition, leading to survival of the business and sustainable growth. Not only will this free up your time, but allow problems to be caught quickly, the expansion of innovative ideas, and the elimination of waste. In a broad sense, operational excellence involves making continuing improvements to a company in order to achieve a competitive advantage. Doing this, your business will maximise value for the customer as well as your own financial benefits.
This blog post is by Ian Walsh, Facilitator at The Icehouse. He delves into the topic of Operational Processes - are your operational processes improving the quality of your customer service and work productivity? How can you remedy bad processes to ensure your organisation is consistently achieving performance goals and meeting requirements?