Process Improvement—Easier, Better, Faster, & Cheaper

What is Your Company’s Business Methodology?

  • Total Quality Management (TQM)
  • Lean Manufacturing
  • Six Sigma
  • Lean Six Sigma (LSS)
  • Lean Enterprise System (LES)
  • Theory of Constraints (TOC)
  • Kaizen
  • Just-In-Time-Production (JIT)
  • Toyota Production System (TPS)
  • Agile Manufacturing
  • Business Process Reengineering (BPR)
  • Continuous Process Improvement (CPI)
  • Evidence-Based Management Practices
  • Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE)
  • SMART Goals
  • ISO 9001
  • Capability Maturity Model-Integrated (CMMI)

Consultants, authors, and academicians have made a fortune promoting these opaque principles. Manufacturing expert Michael Baudin describes many of these methodologies as being vastly different from each other and clashing for our attention and adoption:

“They really are competitive brands put out by consultants vying for clients in overlapping markets. And they are so different in scope and track record that they do not belong together in a list. The topical literature is a cacophony of claims of effectiveness, originality, and universality, as well as bandwagon jumping.”

There seems to be an urgent need by companies to start working towards some universally applicable “best methods” to improve their company’s operations resulting in the development of an enterprise operational doctrine.

Purposes of Process Improvement

Companies should choose their operations method with careful introspection, consideration, and discourse. Let’s keep it simple. Consider the simplicity of Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo’s concept for manufacturers to embrace: “There are four purposes of improvement: easier, better, faster, and cheaper. These four goals appear in the order of priority.”

Shigeo Shingo is one of the world’s leading authorities on manufacturing methods. The beauty of the quote is in its simplicity. It is ordained that customers want manufacturers to produce products that perform better than they are accustomed to and for those products to be delivered faster and at a cheaper price.

Customers want the highest quality, the shortest lead time, and the lowest cost. These are worthy goals for a company no doubt, but in order to achieve these results we have to make the process that gets us there easier.

Easier

Why easier? If you simplify the process, you place fewer barriers between the worker and their path toward achieving the desired outcome. This is true both physically and emotionally. By making a manufacturing process easier, the product not only improves, but the operator is also more alert and can focus on their job to make more products in less time, and thereby reducing costs overall.

For example, in our blog series on Wisconsin manufacturer Fox Valley Tool & Die (FVTD), You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure—A Fox Valley Tool & Die Story, we saw how company managers, in an effort to improve internal quality, noticed that they were having a lot of repeat issues in production with problems occurring on certain jobs and rework needing to be done.

After FVTD managers examined internal processes and talked to shop floor machinists about the issues, they put a new system in place to flag problem areas and forewarn machine operators of issues and provide details on how the problems were previously resolved. FVTD managers made things much easier for machine operators by giving them the information that they needed in advance of encountering potentially troublesome issues. They made this information available to them right on the shop floor with The Lake Companies’ Shop-Trak application. Not only was it easier for the machine operators to get through jobs, but the process was better for customers as well and reduced the amount of returned product.

Click here to learn more about Fox Valley Tool & Die’s success with Shop-Trak and Doc-Trak and watch their presentation from SyteLineCon

Better

The customer determines when a product is better and some common standards of better products include:

  • Easier for customers to use
  • Lasts longer
  • More features
  • More benefits
  • Higher quality
  • More advanced technology
  • More useful
  • Aesthetically pleasing

Faster

Time is money and if you make the process easier, the individual will work faster. Don’t follow the approach that many companies did when the economy went south. Many organizations laid off workers and then dramatically increased the number of tasks and responsibilities for the remaining workforce. This is tripping over dollars to save dimes and is not sustainable physically or mentally.

Cheaper

Easier, better, and faster practices will lead to cost savings. Cheaper products are the result of:

  • Products made only when needed—no inventory glut
  • Cost savings introduced in production
  • Customer-centric design process for improved satisfaction and less returns
  • Simplifying the manufacturing process
  • Innovation that leads to improved production processes
  • Labor costs reduced
  • Raw material costs reduced
  • Inventory holding costs reduced or eliminated
  • Products produced correctly the first time

However, it is important not to forsake easier, better, or faster simply to obtain cheaper products. Never sacrifice quality or safety. If you simply get the first three concepts down, cheaper will follow naturally.

The Role of Technology

Adopting and improving your technology infrastructure is probably the fastest and easiest route to manufacturing process improvement. Innovation often leads to easier, better, faster, and cheaper outcomes.

The Lake Companies has been bringing innovation, growth, and success to manufacturing businesses all over the world for over 30 years. Fox Valley Tool & Die is just one example. The combination of Shop-Trak and Doc-Trak and the solution they employed with the applications made it easier, better, faster, and cheaper for the managers, the machinists, and the entire organization. To see the full story, check out the 2-part blog series You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure—A Fox Valley Tool & Die Story.

Contact us for powerful, easy-to-use solutions to improve your technology picture. If the goal of your organization is to become a big success without the headaches, hassles, excessive time, and costs it often takes to get there, The Lake Companies can help.