Doing More with Less; Process Improvement in the Downsizing Environment

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

“More with Less”  By Roberta O’Keith, MBA, Certified LEAN Six Sigma Black BeltThese days, companies are ...

“More with Less”  By Roberta O’Keith, MBA, Certified LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt

These days, companies are scrambling to do more with , less time, less money, and fewer resources.  As an employee, you may wonder, “How can they continue producing?” or “How will they live without me?”  I’m here to tell you that no matter what your job or function is, they can and will go on without you. 

Most companies go through a period of adjustment, with many trials and tribulations, after a downsizing event.  They may pool resources to accomplish multiple functions, hire consultants and/or temps to bridge the gaps, while they continue to have process fires to put out, ultimately resulting in a decrease in productivity. 

The cost impact of a downsizing often doesn’t show up in a company’s financials until three to six months down the road.  This is due to multiple factors including layoff packages, benefit extensions, or oftentimes, decreased productivity of the existing workforce. 

Downsizing can play a major role in decreasing sales, operations, and customer service.   Often, employees are left feeling confused, unable to focus, and fearful of what will happen next. 

Therefore, before a company decides to downsize they need to outline all the risk factors and potential repercussions that could sabotage the business for months, or even years. 

As a business owner, if you are in the midst of downsizing (or even in the beginning or late stages of downsizing for that matter), you should consider the following steps in order to keep your employees focused on how they can help improve the bottom line.  Your employees are an asset.  Protect them and empower them to help your company succeed.  

 Step 1: Organize & Simplify – Practice LEAN 5’s (Sort, Simplify, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain) 

Everyone should go through their desk and/or workspace and discard non-value added documents, knick-knacks, folders, binders, and files.  Sort through and organize your workstation so that your essentials are available within easy reach and all non-essential items are put away.  This provides a clean and well-organized workspace that will give anyone who walks in easy access to those items needed to complete a task or function.  If you are in a manufacturing setting, your workspace should be safe and clean. 

A company may elect to set up daily audits with goals to hold employees accountable to maintain their newly clean and organized workspaces. 

Step 2:  Document your processes (flow chart or value stream map)
 

Documenting the flow of your work tasks helps identify any re-work, extra steps, and redundancies that you may not normally see in your daily tasks.  Question “why?” at each step to see if there are some that can be eliminated, modified, or skipped altogether.   

Include at each step the amount of time it actually takes to perform the function and the amount of time the product, document, claim, invoice, or part sits in a “holding pattern” before progressing to the next task.   

Once the flow chart or value stream map is complete, you can begin to see what is taking up most of your production time and what steps are non-value added.  The idea is to eliminate any wasted, non-value added time and reduce the amount of processing time. 

Document.  Document.  Document.  Have written procedures so that if you are not available to complete your tasks, someone else can come in and manage them in your absence.  This will help keep your business flowing and become more efficient.  Also, periodically audit your procedures to ensure compliance. 

Step 3:  Look at other areas of waste
 

In any business, according to LEAN principles, there are seven basic areas of waste that can be identified for potential improvements.
1)       Defects
2)       Over production
3)       Inventory
4)       Motion
5)       Extra Processing or re-work
6)       Transportation
7)       Waiting 

For example, having your processes spread out throughout a warehouse, office building, or work site can cause extensive time wasted just in moving from process to process.  Moving your process and/or production line closer to the door or shipping area helps reduce time lag and increase cycle to the customer.

Work with your employees individually and as teams to help identify areas that are sources of waste within the seven stated categories.  Whether it is in the amount of scrap material, invoicing errors, or overproduction (absorption), which may lead to inventory issues, a cross-functional team can work together to identify areas for improvement.

An outside consultant can provide a fresh perspective and help identify and define those areas of "pain" that an organization may not be aware of.  However, execution of suggested improvements and measuring the results thereof is key.   

By implementing the three basic principles outlined above, you can make a direct impact on reducing process inefficiencies, which can lead to increased productivity.  Today’s market has impacted every type of business.  You are not alone.  We all need to learn how to work smarter, faster, leaner, with less. 

To learn more about the LEAN principles or Six Sigma please check out www.lean.org or www.isixsigma.com.  

Roberta O’Keith is a certified LEAN Six Sigma Black Belt with over 19 years of business development, process improvement, marketing, and sales within the insurance, consumer service, and energy industries.  With over 8 years in various positions with General Electric, she has gained a wealth of knowledge on how to apply Six Sigma to the transactional and manufacturing markets.  She holds a Master in Business, with a concentration in Management Consulting and is the owner of Lucidity Consulting & Professional Coaching, LLC. If you would like to know more about how a consultant or business coach can help you or your business, please feel free to contact Lucidity Consulting and Professional Coaching, LLC at lucidityconsulting@yahoo.com or check out their website at www.visionandclarity.com.  

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