My job is to know is to know why some process at a customer doesn't work and then find the easiest and most cost effective way to fix it, and each time, my first step is always the same. This tool only costs $.05 in materials, a child could do it and often does, and it solves the process problem almost every time.
Anyone can do it, everyone should do it, but most never do. They should, but usually overlook it as too simple or obvious.
It has worked for me in manufacturing plants, plant and warehouse layout problems, sap integrations, Microsoft AX integrations, paperwork flow, and many other applications. It is pretty much a universal tool. This tool is a Swiss army knife of business problem solving.
What is it?
It is simple. -
Draw your process out. A nice simple rough sketch.
Get a piece of paper and a pencil.
Draw the work flow.
Make sure that you have people with you who are involved in all steps in the process and they are helping you create the sketch. Make sure you get every move, every transaction, every single delay, every person, all the issues.
Your drawing will be messy and that is good, just make sure to draw out the flow of the process you are working on as accurately as possible, no editing until done.
Put it up on the wall.
Does anything in the process get handled twice?
If it does, there is a problem, because nothing should be handled twice.
Is there dead inventory, material stuck at stations? Draw it. Inventory is there to hide a problem, if everything is working, you do not need extra inventory.
Are there feedback loops so that people who aren't of the process know the results of their actions, and see when they are doing well, or not doing well? This important, because people need to know how they are doing, if there is no feedback, they think it doesn't matter.
Put times on your drawing, it will surprise you.
Draw your problem and every time the solution is there as well.
I am a visual learner, and I see structures where others hear words, but it works for every one. Once you see the problem, the answer is obvious, you need to fix a machine, train more, redo the process line, fix process errors that cause quality errors.
It is also makes you truly know your process.
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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Disclosure of Material Connection:
Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”