Business Process Improvement

What is Business Process Improvement?

Business Process Improvement is a system in the business practice of identifying, examining, and upgrading ongoing business processes to boost performance, meet best practice standards or simply increase quality and the user experience for customers and end-users.

Process improvement may have many different terms such as business process management (BPM), business process improvement (BPI), business process re-engineering, continual improvement process (CIP), etc. Regardless of the name it is referred to as, they all work towards the same goal i.e. to reduce errors, minimize waste, increase productivity, and have organized efficiency.

What are Business Process Improvement techniques?

There are many different methodologies created and used to help your organization undertake process improvement. Each technique aims to help your business identify process issues, fix them, and analyze the success or failure of those changes. Despite having a common goal, each methodology suits a different need.

Some of the techniques are as follows -

  1. PDCA: PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, and Act. It helps businesses be more efficient while identifying processes that need improvement. The process goes as follows- first, identify the problem (plan), create and execute a solution (do), analyze data for effectiveness (check) then put on paper the final results and execute the plan if it’s right (act).

  1. Six Sigma: Six Sigma is a highly used process improvement methodology that takes workers up through ranks classified with the help of karate belts. The employee starts the journey as a green belt and learns his/her way up to a black belt. Six Sigma involves two ways to cut down process improvement through certain steps which include - define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC) AND define, measure, analyze, design and verify (DMADV).

  1. Cause and Effect Analysis: Another tool is Cause and Effect Analysis, which involves using a diagram to check problems the first time by identifying the problem, looking out for obstacles, and pointing out the reasons why the process isn’t working.

  1. SIPOC analysis: SIPOC analysis is a diagram format that falls under the Six Sigma methodology, which usually happens during the “measure” stage of DMAIC or DMADV. SIPOC helps businesses define and set a process improvement project as well as identify requirements and vital elements before starting off.

  1. Value stream mapping (VSM): VSM helps a business visually represent customer’s views of a business process, which then helps to recognize the value of a product, process, or service to the business. It’s highly focused on eliminating waste, redundancy, and being as lean as possible.

  1. Total Quality Management (TQM): TQM helps organizations get the complete company on board with continuous process improvement by focusing on getting long-term success through customer satisfaction. It’s a strategy that empowers workers by fostering a culture where employees aren’t afraid to create mistakes and are driven towards a shared business goal.

  1. Process mapping: Process mapping is another workflow visualization that helps companies design a concept for process improvement. It also can be called a process flowchart, process chart, functional flowchart and process model. Ultimately, it’s the method of making a flowchart that points out important information and a few process workflows from start to end.

What are the goals of Business Process Improvement?

Goal #1: Reducing Process Time – Finding ways of going around the process quicker or more efficiently. There are many different ways this can be taken up, from removing useless steps to adopting new technology.

Goal #2: Improving Output Quality – Creating a much better product with an identical input of resources. This usually means finding steps within the method that negatively influence the end-product, leading to defects and errors.

Goal #3: Cutting Out Waste – Discovering wasteful processes & cutting them out of the workflow. This might either help achieve the primary goals or just improve overall productivity. If your team doesn't do useless work, they will spend longer on the work that makes value for the corporate.

What are Business Process Improvement (BPI) Steps?

There are many business process improvement methodologies, but the central concept is usually the same – taking up all the old processes & looking out for ways to improve them.

The following are typical steps one has to take to carry out a BPI initiative:

Step 1: Mapping

If you don’t know what your processes are, how are you able to analyze their efficiency and improve them?

Hence, map them out to get a birds-eye view of your business. This may be a great way to know how your business works & find anything which may seem weak or inefficient.

The most basic way to do this is through pen and paper, by drawing a flowchart of the steps undertaken in a process. This, however, is the best way to map out processes through software at present.

Step 2: Analysis

Once you have got your process delineated, you'll start analyzing it by asking yourself some of these questions -

Are there any steps in the process that are taking more time than they usually should?

In case there are delays or missed deadlines, what is the main reason for that?

What are the steps that have the most impact on product quality, and is there a way to make them more efficient?

Step 3: Redesign

Once you’ve identified the inefficiencies in your old process, you'll determine the ways to change it. This is, of course, considerably dependent on your specific situation, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.

Step 4: Implementation

Implementation is a very important step for the success of a business process improvement initiative – if something goes wrong, you might end up losing more than what the inefficient process was costing you.

The steps for successful implementation are as follows:

  • Implement the changes at a smaller scale to mitigate risk. Before closing the changes throughout the complete organization, you’re at an advantage testing it at a smaller scale & benchmarking it to the initial process.
  • Acquire the correct resources & define the steps.
  • Let all the shareholders know of the changes & start implementing it.

Step 5: Reflection & Benchmarking

Things don’t usually go the way you propose them. Once you roll out the changes, you continue to want to watch everything, ensuring everything is as it should be.

Let’s say, for instance, you’re optimizing your manufacturing process to extend output per hour. While you'll succeed with this, it could so happen that whilst the output is healthier, so is the defect rate, leaving you with a brand new problem to figure out (and back to phase one, in terms of profits).

Even if that is not the case, BPI is a continuous process –  there are always some new changes you could test and implement.

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