Process Improvement Methods

05/06/2020 1 By indiafreenotes

Process improvement involves the business practice of identifying, analyzing and improving existing business processes to optimize performance, meet best practice standards or simply improve quality and the user experience for customers and end-users.

Process improvement can have several different names such as business process management (BPM), business process improvement (BPI), business process re-engineering, continual improvement process (CIP), to name a few. Regardless of the nomenclature, they all pursue the same goal: to minimize errors, reduce waste, improve productivity and streamline efficiency.

  1. Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a methodology that uses data and statistics to improve process efficiency and reduce variations. It initially began at Motorola, was then adopted by General Electric, and thereafter began to be widely used for manufacturing and business processes. There are two sub-methodologies within Six Sigma–DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control) and DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyse, Design, Verify)–which are used for existing and new processes respectively.

  1. Lean Thinking

Lean thinking involves doing away with any activity that doesn’t bring value to the process. It was started at Toyota and is still a very effective methodology today. It is often used in combination with the Six Sigma method.

The difference between Six Sigma and Lean Thinking is that while Six Sigma eliminates defects for quality assurance, Lean Thinking eliminates all wasteful practices in order to achieve efficiency.

This method includes examining the value stream of a process to differentiate value-added activities (that result in customers paying for the product or service) from non-value added activities (that complete a concept or an order). If something doesn’t add value or form part of policy and regulation, it is considered wasteful. Process engineers map out the steps to deliver a product or service with the help of a value stream map.

  1. Total Quality Management (TQM)

Here, customer satisfaction is the end goal and the yardstick by which success is measured. The US federal government began using this method in the 1980s after which it began gaining widespread attention.

These are the principles that govern the TQM method.

  • Customers determine the level of quality
  • All employees work toward common goals
  • Focus on process thinking
  • Focus on processes that connect vertical functions
  • A strategic and systematic approach
  • Continual process improvement
  • Data-based decision making
  • Effective communication with employees
  1. Kaizen

The Kaizen methodology was initially implemented in Japanese companies after WWII. A Japanese term, Kaizen means ‘to take apart’ and ‘to make good’. This methodology focuses on making small incremental changes that are routinely applied over a sustained period to improve performance. Kaizen attempts to improve productivity and eliminate wasteful activities in processes.

  1. PDCA

PDCA is an acronym for Plan-Do-Check-Act. This methodology is based on the notion of continuous improvement to carry out change. This model is carried out repetitively. It involves coming up with a proposed plan, testing out the plan, measuring its effectiveness, and implementing feedback.

  1. Whys

This method was developed and utilized by Toyota as part of problem-solving training. The goal is to conduct a root cause analysis in a problem. As the name suggests, you ask “why” five times until you eventually uncover the actual problem that needs to be fixed. This analysis can be conducted using a fishbone diagram or tabular columns.

  1. Cause and Effect analysis

Another tool born from Six Sigma is Cause and Effect analysis, which involves using a diagraming method to fix problems the first time by identifying the problem, discovering road blocks and pinpointing why the process isn’t working.

  1. SIPOC analysis

As a diagram format that falls under the Six Sigma methodology, SIPOC analysis happens during the “measure” stage of DMAIC or DMADV. SIPOC helps organizations define and establish a process improvement project as well as identify requirements and necessary elements before starting.

  1. Value stream mapping (VSM)

VSM helps organizations visually represent customer’s perceptions of a business process, which helps identify the value of a product, process or service to the organization. Similar to other methodologies, it’s highly focused on eliminating waste, redundancy and being as lean as possible.

  1. Process mapping

Another workflow visualization that helps companies map out a plan for process improvement is process mapping. It can also be called a process flowchart, process chart, functional flowchart and process model. Ultimately, it’s the process of creating a flow diagram that delivers vital information about a process workflow from start to finish.

Automation’s role in process improvement

Because it’s one of the easiest ways to improve processes is to eliminate manual toil and reduce human error, automation plays a significant role in process improvement. Process automation helps organizations understand where they need to improve and what is working as it should.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a hot topic in automation and businesses have embraced the practice to streamline processes. It allows organizations to mimic human actions for tasks or steps involved in complex processes. Automation occurs through a string of rules and triggers that eliminate the need for manual labor in specific parts of the process and allow the RPA to do what a human previously had to do.

Some process improvements that are automated with RPA includes automated email responses, online order processing, categorizing help desk tickets, transferring data between systems and payroll management. This not only helps create more efficiency around business process, but it also helps free up workers to focus on more complex tasks that automation can’t handle.

Picking the Best Business Process Improvement Methodology

Although there are multiple effective BPM methodologies, the right one should suit your business requirements and resolve any issues you may be facing. It should help enhance process efficiency and minimize errors.

Would you like to lead the pride rather than following a herd? Send your efficiency levels skyrocketing with Kissflow Process. An intuitive, sophisticated workflow management system, Kissflow doesn’t require coding know-how and can integrate easily with your existing applications. You can get status updates on all your processes at a glance with the comprehensive dashboard. Powerful analytics and reporting features ensure that you have the insights required to improve processes and mitigate errors.