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Business Process Improvement

Business Process Improvement

Your business process is how you get from Point A to Point B to create and deliver what you’ve promised your customers. Is the path you take relatively straight, or do your employees unnecessarily add steps or duplicate their efforts along the way?

Business process improvement slashes inefficiencies.

At DragonPoint, we love solving problems. We can help you streamline your business process by analyzing your path from beginning to end. We then offer sound solutions to make your path more efficient from Point A to Point B.

Is local optimization hurting your business process?

Every business sells, produces, and delivers a product or service to its clients, and each company’s business processes are the unique steps taken to do this. Even if two businesses are selling exactly the same product or service, their business processes won’t be exactly the same. Processes are developed in response to demands imposed by clients, internal management, or government and other oversight agencies. Within these overall processes, the company’s divisions and departments have sub-processes that are part of the overall path to the endpoint. Most employees complete their part of the process to the best of their abilities. This is called local optimization, and it often contributes to inefficiencies in the overall process.

How can doing your best still cause inefficiency?

Inefficiencies are introduced because employees do their best based on their understanding. How can doing your best cause a problem? Here are some examples.

Case One – Wrong Rewards

One of our clients was concerned because the number of sales per month was incorrect on their existing system-generated reports. When we investigated the issue, we found that the reports accurately reflected the data in the system. What was the problem? The company rewarded its employees for the number of sales per month, counted at the end of the month. Management analyzed sales reports weekly, creating two very different pictures.

Using our standard business process improvement methodology, we found that:

  • Based on the month-end reward system, some employees waited until the last day of the month to enter sales. If management talked to employees during the month, they might hear about 100 sales, when the mid-month system-generated report would show only 10.
  • Even when employees entered sales throughout the month, they waited until the last possible day to enter cancellations. Why? They optimistically hoped they could salvage the account before the month’s end. Since about half of the initial sales ended up cancelling, this omission had a significant impact on the accuracy of the sales data.

Based on the reward system, employees were highly motivated to enter sales at the end of the month, and there was little incentive to enter sales or cancellations throughout the month. The system was accurately reporting the information entered, but the information in the system didn’t match what was happening in real life. To allow information in the system to agree with what management might hear in a phone call or a hallway conversation, we recommended that the company make the reporting and reward periods the same. Weekly rewards would ensure that sales were entered into the system by the end of each week. What looked like a report problem was really a process issue.

Case Two – No Ownership of the Overall Process

A client complained that it took too long to create an estimate of the cost to manufacture a new product. The problem wasn’t a lack of motivation, knowledge, or data. What was it? A business process problem.

Here’s how the original process worked:

  • Client requested cost to produce a new product.
  • Sales completed a new product pricing request form by filling in customer and product information.
  • Engineering reviewed the request and filled in the technical requirements for building the product.
  • Based on engineering’s input, purchasing sourced the raw materials required to build the product and provided the cost.
  • Production figured out the steps required to produce the product and calculated the associated cost.
  • Packing identified the best packing method and associated cost.
  • Shipping determined the cost for various alternatives for delivering the product to the client.
  • Accounting calculated the final cost and sales price for the new product.
  • Sales, engineering, purchasing, production, packing, shipping, accounting, and the management team met to discuss the new product request and finalize the sales price to produce the new product.

Questions throughout the process frequently required communication with the customer. Clarification of the customer’s requirements was re-routed through all departments to determine whether an update was required. Each customer purchased about 10 products from the company. With an average time of 90+ days to create a quote, our client was losing orders for existing products along with new opportunities, as frustrated customers selected new manufacturers for all their items.

Our DragonPoint team interviewed representatives of the departments involved and prepared process maps showing what was happening. We facilitated a team meeting to review the maps and discuss our findings , which included:

  • Responsibility for the new product quote was handed off as it routed to each department. No one was assigned ownership of and authority for the overall process.
  • Departments were sometimes generating unnecessary information. For example, engineering spent up to 4 hours creating a new product spreadsheet because they thought purchasing and production needed the information, but neither department used it.
  • Questions that came up during the management meeting at the end of the process frequently required a complete rework of the quote.
  • The employees who completed the new product quote request in each department also had production responsibilities, which took precedence over the new product work.

Once the departments understood the complete process, they became part of the solution. Management delegated authority for the complete new product estimation process to one person. Engineering was happy to stop spending time producing the unnecessary spreadsheet. A cross-functional team review of the request was added to the beginning of the process, so fewer questions came up for the first time at the end. The early team review also provided the benefit of identifying products the company could not produce before departments wasted time responding to the request.

With the changes implemented, the new product process was reduced to 30 days or less, and the person who now owns the process continues to make improvements.

Maybe your business doesn’t take 90 days to price a new product, but every business has processes that can be improved.

Fix process issues before investing in software

Sometimes people will try to convince you that software solves business process issues. However, business process improvement is independent of computer software. The best software in the world can’t fix broken processes, and the wrong software makes bad processes worse. So before you invest in new or updated software, analyze and improve your business processes.

At DragonPoint, we have used our standard business process improvement methodology to facilitate more than 50 process improvement projects throughout the country and around the world. We’ve worked with a variety of service and manufacturing clients, seamlessly bridging the distance from our Florida office.

Our business process improvement report can help your company streamline operations. Learn More.