Process Improvement

Constantly staying on top of current processes is a necessary task for manufacturers in order to keep operation most up to date and efficient. There are many strategies that go into behind the scenes of process improvement. It can be a delicate task, with prioritizing the efficiency of processes, while also keeping employees’ thoughts and best interests in mind.

In a recent chat for USA Manufacturing Hour on Twitter, Host David Crysler with @theCryslerClub in Michigan led a discussion about Process Improvement.


Process mapping and Identifying Areas of Improvement

The chat began by asking participants if they have ever used process mapping to identify areas for improvement.

Kati McDermith, the Manufacturing Hype Girl in Illinois said, “I started doing this after learning about process from you.”

Julia Gardner from Hourly – Insurance & Payroll in California replied “I've used mental mapping and it's super effective! I'd love to learn more about process mapping...”

Amy.M.Anderson said, “This is a powerful tool! Often the act of documenting the process reveals levels of activity most take for granted but are vital! (It works for big processes and small - even mundane household chores can gain from this activity, brings appreciation!)”

To which host Crysler replied “YES!! So True Amy!!”


Dan Bigger from Optessa Inc in New Jersey said, “I have not, but I am a big process guy and have a process for everything. I live by processes. Repeatable and all the time to save time.”

Rebecca Prox from Digital Marketing Pro said, “Sure have! It was required of several managers before me, and I'll consider doing it as a manager myself. We seem to have very loose processes - at least in marketing.”

Whitney Koch from Welker, Inc. in Texas said, “I have not personally... “

Host Crysler said, “You'd pick it up quick Whitney... super simple yet very effective!”

Neil Hussey from Denco Lubrication in the UK said, “Yes, in engineering it's a great tool for finding bottlenecks or problems.”

Chase Bodor from Plastics Plus Technology, Inc in California said, “We've done this and multiple variations. One of which we call a "Paper Doll" exercise where we make a scaled-down version of an assembly work cell. We also simulate how a system-related process would flow before rolling it out”

Emily Kite from Obsidian Manufacturing Industries, Inc. in Illinois said, “I personally haven't but I think it would be an awesome thing to start doing for my day to day. I know Obsidian often checks over processes and tries to streamline anywhere we can if the process isn't working as effectively.”

Nigel Packer from Pelatis Online in Wales, UK said, “The process map is a useful tool that can be adapted for FMEA - Failure mode effect analysis. By looking at each part of the process we can identify failure points. We can then develop improvements to mitigate the failures.”

Michelle Riccetto from Brash Inc said,In UX, we use process mapping to identify the gap between the users needs and the product itself. Having a better understanding of the end users overall experience makes it easier to pinpoint areas of improvement!”

Host Crysler answered, “I’ve learned this is the most useful tool we can deploy for process improvement because it helps everyone see the steps being taken to drive the desired outcome.”

“Here is a resource to learn more about Process Mapping:


Prioritizing Which Process to Focus On

The discussion continued with the group sharing how they prioritize certain process to improve before others.

Prox said, “It differs by company and department, but often I've seen the priority go to what will impact the bottom line first.”

Gardner replied to Prox with, “This makes a ton of sense!”

Koch said, “Hmmm, I would pick the process that has the biggest impact on me and start there.”

Rusine said, “Determine which processes are the most important for accomplishing the organization’s overall goals.”

Austin replied, “Good one Rubes!”

Bigger said, “to me it would be the one that needs the most work.”

Chris Giglio, from Rovere Media in New Jersey, “Once you have an idea of the big picture, I'm assuming you look at the biggest areas of waste or the ones not generating any value.”

Paker said “Look in the scrap dumpster. What are the largest number of scrapped items in it? Start there. Then extend the analysis to the rest of the process.”

Host Crysler responded “love that one Nigel!!”

Sales Leads added to the chat, “Being in marketing, I always prioritize the customer, and what makes them successful. That usually draws out which process needs building or improving internally.”

To which Koch replied “Good Idea”

McDermith said, “I started with the one that was the most cumbersome/annoying and then I started working on mapping any process while I am in it.”

Prox replied “That's a great way to go about it!”

Hussey said, “Depends on the company and what it does. Usually, you map the process that's causing you the most problems/issues. Otherwise, the one that will have the biggest effect on your company (bottom line) but process mapping can have a benefit on all of your processes.”

Jasmine Labelle from velavu in Canada said, “It all comes down to data - which processes (backed by data) seem to be causing the most obstacles? Then go from there.”

Kite said, “I would look at what's working and what's not working first. Are they current methods getting the most efficiency out of it or not? Then decide what process to focus on first out of the not working section. Seeing it all the way through.”

Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc. in Missouri said, “I think it's important to prioritize what is either wasting your Team's time or resources ($) the most.”

Riccetto said, “Data and organizational goals are huge for pinpointing areas of improvement!”

Felix P. Nater from Nater Associates in North Carolina said, Fell behind looking through my notes for one of your Tweets on SOPs and found it, David. I think Teams who follow SOPs contribute to process improvement.”

Ingor Van Rooi, The Networking Ninja in Canada said,I guess I focus on ones that are complex, because there's always room for improvement and simplification.”

Host Crysler answered, “Most often I’m using a combination of organizational goals and KPIs to prioritize but we can just as easily use team or customer feedback.”


Involving Employees in Process Improvement

The discussion then went on to speak on getting employees involved in process improvement.

Koch said, “Ask them if there's anything they do in the process that isn't working and/or what they'd do differently.”

Gardner replied to Koch with, “Oooh yes, love the specificity and simplicity of this!”

Kite agreed with Koch saying “Yep”

Gardner answered saying, “Opening it up to them and being transparent, asking questions and feedback!”

Bigger said, “I say that this is a must, and you ask. I like simple Dave. That is my process.”

McDermith answered, “I just asked. "Hey - once I send this off to you, what happens then?" I let them know I am documenting some processes to see if I can uncover any redundancies or "tribbles". So far, so good!”

SalesLeads said, “Right from the start! Getting them involved in the identification of the problem, gaining their agreement and brainstorming are the best places to start. When the process is being built, get a leader to wade through the ideas and put it together. Then the team works to test it.”

Riccetto said, “Ask them for feedback and input. Communicating goes a long way in process improvement!”

Host Crysler agreed with “Oh yeah it does!!”

Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing in California said, “Ensure they understand the process and the goal. Create a culture of collaboration. Ask for input.”

Gardner replied to Rusine with, “Culture of collaboration is HUGE”

Host Crysler also replied to Rusine with, “It should no doubt be a team sport Rebecca!! Love that you get everyone involved!!”

Hussey said, “Get them involved in all stages. Get their input, after all they're the ones doing the work at the coal face.”

Prox said, “Process improvement has always been a team effort in my experiences. We would sit down as a group to map out what our process was, is, and could be. Suggestions from everyone helped make the best process possible.”

David Crysler replied to Prox with, “It should no doubt be a team sport Rebecca!! Love that you get everyone involved!!”

Giglio said, “Asking questions and having open and honest conversation. No one can offer better feedback than somebody who works with a process every day.”

Host Crysler replied to Giglio with, “Exactly Chris!!”

Labelle said, “Ask about their day to day! Is there anything bugging them or something they find time consuming? Communication is key!”

Brett from FreightPOP said,I think the most important way to involve employees is by actually listening to them and allowing them to partake in an open, honest conversation where they are allowed to share their opinions and thoughts without facing any backlash.”

Sandy Hubbard from Portland Oregon said, “Involve employees in testing for failure points and stress areas. People love the challenge, and it keeps them engaged. You can make it a competition, have prizes, and report back on findings. Building something bulletproof becomes a group goal.”

Bodor said, “There are many ways: Interviewing them about the process as it is and where it could be is one of my favorites. When an employee's input is valued and acted upon - it is much easier to get buy-in to the proposed changes.”

Anderson said to Bodor, “YES!!!!! "When an employee's input is valued and acted upon - it is much easier to get buy-in to the proposed changes.”

Van Rooi said, “I would ask them how they feel the process can be improved, especially they've learned that a step or two are NOT necessary.”

Nater said, “Process Improvement - In the Army I applied the AAR or After-Action Report to look back on what went wrong in finding the root cause and contributing factors without blame. I use this thinking to assess and evaluate workplace violence related incidents.”

Host Crysler answered, “My favorite approach is to gather people directly involved in and adjacent to the process we are improving. People adjacent are great at asking “why” questions of the people closest to the process. This is a powerful combination that tends to lead to the most impactful improvement ideas.Here is a resource to learn more about getting people involved in process improvement through the 5 Whys Methodology of Root Cause Analysis:


Measuring the Success of Your Initiative

The discussion continued with the different ways to measure success of the process improvement.

Prox said, “Everything works the way you intend on the first try! haha!”

Rusine replied to Prox with, “That would be perfect. Although, I'm not sure if it will happen at all?”

Gardner said, “The results!! Are things running smoothly? Was your team able to implement it, and did things improve?”

Hussey said, “Has the process been improved? Is output Up or waste down or whatever metric you were using to measure the success.”

Gardner replied to Hussey, “Wise words!”

Bigger said, “It depends on what you are trying to improve. Is it time, cutting waste, more leads, closed deals, etc”

Rusine said, “Look for tangible results, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction.”

McDermith answered, “If you have identified something that can/should be fixed or where the holdup is, I think that is success. just being able to put your finger on an issue can be so enlightening.”


Austin said, “I think it's important to state your objectives upfront, then monitor the progress, adjust as you go and keep on it until you achieve those goals. You can use tools to track projects, tasks, delegates, etc.”

Host Crysler responded with “Yes, absolutely love this!!”

Labelle said, “With Velavu Our powerful software includes a dashboard that allows you to monitor processes and measure the success of any operational initiatives!”

Rusine responded with “That’s awesome!”

Bodor said, “Plan your objectives and expected outcomes before you begin your process improvement initiative. Monitor as you implement them. Then, close the loop by comparing your initial goals with your findings. Make a plan for the next phase.”

Hubbard said, “Always be asking ourselves: Did we fix the right thing? What are the unintended consequences of what we did? Where do we have to be vigilant? Whatever we measured to get here, what needs to be measured next?”

Koch said, “Depending on the process. Maybe time saved, amount of waste, number of jobs completed, etc.”

Van Rooi said, “Probably through KPIs and also the morale of the team.”

Host Crysler answered, “We can measure success through our KPIs and culture. Understanding how to leverage both leading and lagging KPIs will help you impact your goals much faster.”


Resistance to Change

The chat wrapped up with a discussion on resistance to change during the process improvement process.

Hubbard said, “Set aside your ego when helping to implement change. It's human nature to resist - that's how we stay safe. Read about how to bring change to groups and learn to do it well. It's a big part of our job!”

McDermith replied to Hubbard, “That needed to be said.”

Crysler chimed in and said to Hubbard, “Sure is Sandy!!”

McDermith answered with, “resistance is futile”

Rusine replied to McDermith with “Such strong words, Kati! Atta girl!”

Rusine answered with “identify and understand why there is resistance. communicate, communicate, communicate provide training and support”

Giglio said, “That's a tough one, I feel like people are naturally resistant to change especially if they've been working a process for several years. Maybe highlighting how this benefits them personally in the long run and the whole company overall.”

Bigger said, “I've dealt with much resistance over the years, but once you involve people and they see the reasons and benefits they will buy in”

Bodor said, “Being a change leader is SO HARD. We subscribe to the ADKAR model for making significant changes. I'll post the graphic I made for it under this tweet...”

Then Bodor added, “ADKAR: Awareness Desire Knowledge Ability Reinforcement”

Prox said, “I personally handle it by asking questions - one of which might be "how would you get us to the end goal?"”

Hussey said, “Depends if it's management or staff. If management, show them the improvement that can be made to the bottom line. If it's staff then show them what an improved process will mean for them (less stress, easier work etc.)”

Sales Leads said, “If you include them from the concept phase, before step 1, the amount of resistance is minimal to none. If comments do arise, yes, answer it with questions until they can't say no.”

Host Crysler replied, “Yes, definitely the earlier in the process the better!”

Kite said, “If you have the facts then use reasoning and data to present the why for that change than resistance should be decreased. But there are always the people who don't like to change no matter how much you present them with logic.”

Hubbard said, “Your resistant people are actually good for the process. They say out loud the fears or behaviors that may later undermine the change process. Better to know from the outset, I say, and build it into the improvement.”

Van Rooi said, “When it comes to adults making a change, they NEED to understand what and why before they are able to adapt. They also NEED to buy into the idea, so it's also important to make them part of the process.”

Brett said, “If you give everyone the opportunity to discuss and share their thoughts when beginning the process improvement journey, there will be much less resistance because everyone will be on the same page. Communication is key, as always!”

Pavel Stepanov from VirtuDesk said,I believe getting into the root cause of the resistance can help in how you can provide assurance that the change will benefit the business overall. I believe getting into the root cause of the resistance can help in how you can provide assurance that the change will benefit the business overall.

Host Crysler answered, “I’ve learned that it’s good to have change resistors on the team. They often keep others generating and justifying their ideas while offering counterpoints as to why something won’t work. The other thing I’ve seen happen is that when a change positively impacts a change resistor, they can quickly shift to a change champion… that’s when things really get fun!”




About #USAMfgHour

Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.

Are you interested in hosting a #USAMfgHour chat? Contact organizers @DanBiggerUsaMfg, @DCSCinc, @SocialSMktg and @Radwell_Intl


Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Pinterest Share by Email