Organisations are continuously striving towards a better position than their organisational rivals. They are working on continuous improvement and optimising their business processes. These are focused on improving the quality of a product or service, to create more efficiency regarding the business processes. Process analysis is a part of this process optimisation. But how does Lean help here?
It is important to focus on what a process actually is. At the beginning of a training, we usually task our participants the same question. It then becomes clear how hard it actually is to define what a process is. There is no clear definition, however we say:
A collection of activities of process steps that are converted into in- and outputs.
It is important to distinguish different levels of a process:
- Chain level– Process of organisations within the same context;
- Business process– The architecture of a business to fulfill the needs of a customer;
- Work process– These visualise the way business processes work;
- Process step– Give an insight in the tasks that are carried out;
- Action/activity – The way a specific tasks or process step is fulfilled;
Map the current situation
To analyse a process, it is important to visualise these. There are many techniques to do so. A well-known technique is the Value Stream Map. This is often carried out by the use of a ‘Brown Paper-session’. In here, details of work processes are mapped out by describing activities and process steps.
The actual process analysis
The analysis of this current, mapped out situation is done to collect data about the goal that is set for an organisation. This goal must be mapped out as well and takes on a futuristic role: what would we want the process to look like? Or more importantly: how should the process work?
After specifying the goal(s), it becomes possible to work towards these. By now, it should become clear which parts of the organisation could use some more attention. A process analysis focuses on identifying possible bottlenecks or waste. Where do these points occur? Are there certain points in the organisation where fails occur or work is not done very efficiently?
Using this process analysis, the quality of products and services can be improved. Possible improvements are mapped out; these can lead to decreases of costs. And in the end this leads to more efficient processes. It gives you the opportunity to view your organisation from ‘the outside’ and be critical. The collaboration between employees is improved as well; they will get a collaborative image of all processes and take their responsibilities to achieve continuous improvement.