What comes to mind when you hear the word processes? Necessity, results, excitement, boredom, sales, turnover, profit, people, culture? Maybe even manufacturing? Who you are and what you do will inform what springs to mind when tasked with pondering the process.
Now for another question. If two different employees in your company who have never met each other before were randomly chosen to do the same task, will they follow the same process and achieve the same result?
I know as CEO and Founder of Equitus that the answer ought to be ‘yes, same process, same result’.
Processes lead to improvement
Today we focus on processes, therefore tying the knot on the three factors that need to be aligned and in harmony before diving into digital. The dictionary defines process as ‘a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.’.
The key in that sentence is ‘achieving a particular end’. So why are processes in manufacturing so important? And should we think we’ve cracked it once we believe we’ve found the best way to do something?
First of all, processes, particularly ones thought through clearly with the big picture in mind, can be transformational in umpteen ways. They help define and describe how to do something and in what order, are often determined by the most efficient way to achieve said objective, bring forth standards – preferably high standards – offer consistency and accountability and they lead to improvement and drive efficiency.
Given the ease in which you can monitor and measure processes, there is always room for improvement. At Equitus, we are firm believers that there is no best way to do something – there is always a better way. That laser sharp focus on the smaller things, leads to bigger opportunities. And that’s why we should not for one moment rest on our laurels when it comes to processes.
Processes should evolve pretty much constantly as we cannot afford to stop learning. Strong leadership and communication with your people as processes evolve will only bolster culture. As people will feel good about ‘doing things better’ and therefore tasking themselves to continually improve.
Another question to ponder is what would happen if ten different people bought the same piece of furniture, but had no instructions to put it together?
Manufacturing processes – the types
It’s no secret that our industry often divides manufacturing processes into the following: Continuous Process Manufacturing, Batch Process Manufacturing, Repetitive Manufacturing, Job Shop Manufacturing, Discrete Manufacturing and 3D Printing. Wherever you sit in the mass institution of manufacturing another pertinent question is how well defined are your processes in achieving your objectives?
Processes, I find, are often governed by the most efficient way to achieve said objective. And by efficiency we’re not just talking in terms of money, but also in terms of time, resources, human effort and other criteria.
Unfortunately, most people who are part of a system often tend to forget the bigger picture.
If a process saves someone a lot of time and cost, but adds more cost and time downstream then it’s not worth having such a process, because it is not efficient in the long run. However, processes that reduce overall human effort, overall time or are resource friendly overall, are efficient.
The complex and the simple
Processes in manufacturing vary greatly.
Some can be very simple and others extremely complex and are dependent on the product and company. With extensive manufacturing supply (value) chain experience Equitus has tackled its fair share of challenges.
Part of our response is challenging the status quo where necessary, so it benefits those directly involved in getting the product into the best position it can possibly be in.
The more we can all adopt this considered yet direct approach, the more value we will add to the end results, whether that be increased customer satisfaction or boosting bottom line profitability and avoiding productivity blocks.
‘Were standard processes followed?’
When things go wrong, the first thing that gets asked is ‘were standard processes followed?’. We’ve all been there or witnessed this as manufacturing is a complex activity.
Mistimed production processes, unexpected product lines breakdowns for example. Just two that lead to worker idle time. Stopping them happening again – or already having a culture of ‘learning from mistakes’ embedded – is pivotal. And it comes through that laser-like focus on process – and principles.
Because the right processes, married with the right people and the right culture can and will drive effective digital transformation. In my experience processes are too often seen as the biggest wasters of time. Particularly when processes that exist haven’t been executed properly and then not reviewed.
If you’ve played any part by even thinking processes waste time, now is perhaps the time to change that, flip it on its head. As we must ensure we are all improving our organisations, no matter how big or small those organisations or companies are. In summary, let us consider two scenarios.
1 – Little consistency, standardisation or accountability. This is Hippyland as there are people, a culture of some sort, but no processes.
2 – No responsible leadership, no true values, no stringent rule of law or ethics. This is pretty much the Wild Wild West as again there are people but no culture or processes.
The tongue-in-cheek point we are trying to make is, your people, culture and your process have to be aligned and in sync.
Tomorrow is too late. Not in the world we live in today. If you are not aligned in sync, no amount of digital will save the day.
Equitus has the ability to help companies with roll outs of digital transformation, based on specific requirements and advantages. We’re always ready for a chat.
About the author
Raam Shankar, Founder and CEO, Equitus Design Engineering and Innovations