Last time I mentioned “Waiting” as the key non-value added waste in most office environments. If waiting drives you crazy, try thinking about how many people your process has to go through. It’s amazing, really. Pick anything from your company – an order from a customer, a purchase order to a vendor, a drawing or design of a new product, a new specification for software, etc – and follow it through your company and see how many people touch that piece of information, along with how long it sits waiting.
Ask yourself, “What is the end goal here?” and “Why is this person touching it?” You may be surprised at the results.
We have found that companies continually add layers of process, and by default, waiting time to processes as they have evolved over the years. Usually, this was to band-aid some sort of error that had happened previously, rather than to follow a lean, continuous improvement philosophy of finding the root cause and fixing the problem. What most companies find is that one time something went wrong – Let’s say, the wrong revision print went out to a vendor. Instead of identifying how a wrong revision print went out (was it training? Was it a system issue?), the response commonly seen is to take away the responsibility of getting the prints from whomever is sending prints to vendors and telling them they need to get the prints from someone “authorized” to know if the print is the current revision. Layering #1 – You’ve just added 1 person and what has turned out to be a 24 hour addition to what had been a 5 minute process.
All seems fixed right? But now, because you’ve added 24 hours to your process (your “authorized” person has their own queue’s to work through), you’ve now delayed information coming back from a vendor by 24 hours. Now, you’re potentially affecting your need to place an order for material or potentially affecting feedback to an important customer who needs to get a sales price from you so that they can give you an order.
So now, we’ve constrained another part of our business because we’ve delayed a process. How do we get around it? Well, hire more people! In the scenario above, let’s hire someone who has responsibility to verify and turn around drawing requests in one hour. That will solve the issue – for awhile. Then what happens when the problem occurs again? Now, you realize that your authorized person did everything correctly and in actuality, you maybe have a system issue or a revision control issue. How do you respond? Another layer of control? Or finally dig into the “why” of the situation, identify how many people are touching the situation, and identify opportunity for failure?
David Seifrid is currently the Director of Strategic Accounts at The Morey Corp.