"Improving Existing Processes"
Once you clearly understand a process, you can focus on ways to make improvements. Review each step of the process with the following key points in mind to make your problems SCARCE.
Simplify: Identify steps that can be made easier, done faster or completed with fewer resources. Look for changes in technology, software, and best practices in the industry. Consider when the number of movements or moving parts can be decreased. Consider the distances to transport people, machines, or raw materials that can be reduced.
Combine: Look for opportunities to combine two or more different operations. Reduce the number of people who interact with the process. Have the same person, function, or department do more so that more value is added to the system at that point. Identify redundancies that create additional steps or rework.
Add Value: Create added value at new points in the process. Determine what could be done at each step to either add new value or add value that was being created somewhere else in the process. This actually means adding elements to the process, so be certain that the added value is worth the investment. Value is determined by the ultimate customers, so be sure to keep their perspectives in mind. Be careful not to create unnecessary redundancies across departments that could lead to conflicts later.
Re-Arrange: This could involve moving people, equipment, work spaces, raw materials, etc. Look at options to change the sequence of operations or activities. Could something be done earlier or later? By a different person or at a different location? Small changes can make a big difference.
Clarify: Sometimes we discover that a process is correct, but it is not being followed consistently. Be careful of change just for the sake of change. You might discover that people are unaware of processes, need additional training, or have to be convinced why it is important to do the process in the prescribed way. This is where good communication and human relation skills are critical.
Eliminate: This is usually the most effective and easiest approach. Careful examination of long-held processes usually brings to light steps that are no longer necessary. We are sometimes repeating activities because "that is how it is done around here". There was a story about Catherine The Great in Russia, who posted a guard inside the palace to make sure no one picked a flower growing there. Hundreds of years later there was still a guard being posted in that internal garden, long after the flower had disappeared. It only came to light when some curious visitor wondered why you needed a guard for an internal garden. So the lesson here is question everything!
Often there is little or no investment in time or resources required to eliminate these types of steps. Just be careful not to eliminate elements that are essential to downstream operations. Before eliminating something, ask stakeholders in the organization why a step is being done.