For my next post on process asset management, I will expand our discussion to those processes that extend beyond the traditional “four walls” of a single plant, to those processes that should be replicated across all plants, or involve partners or suppliers. Assuming a process can be considered an asset (see: “Are Business Processes an Asset?”), it follows that continuously improvement should be an objective (as I stated here: “Four Steps to Improving Process Assets”).
A business process that can be considered a best practice within a Lean manufacturing or Six Sigma initiative today must be capable of enabling continuous process improvement on a global scale. No plant is an island – no single location process improvement can really be considered a “best practice.” What often results, however, is the implementation of many “tool kits” at some plants that lack consistency, resulting in the need to monitor local results performed on a plant-by-plant basis.
Best-in-Class manufacturers evaluate, manage and improve their business processes across a common architecture, so processes can be shared and be in alignment with every other plant. Benefits from this approach include:
- Greater performance improvement can be achieved every time a process modification is done; benefits are multiplied across every plant
- Lower IT Support costs are possible by diagnosing and solving systems problems faster, given greater familiarity with the process structure at any plant, resulting in fewer resources, time and effort spent supporting IT systems
- Better consistency measuring performance means that a more accurate picture is possible of where the greatest productivity is occurring; think of this as a hidden “tax” on trying to locate your “real” best-practice … if you think a plant is performing best, but in actuality, their measurement criterion is wrong, then you could reduce productivity by replicating this process
- Process consistency across plants supports lower training costs, both from a content / materials perspective as well as the fact that multiple employees from different locations can all be trained at the same time
- Better, faster collection of necessary data for compliance and regulation for greater accuracy and reduced costs, easing the completion of necessary requirements
The decision to embrace process improvement on a multi-site basis necessitates having not only a corporate vision and executive sponsorship to pursue, but also, an IT systems infrastructure capable of sharing business processes across locations while maintaining a level of detail and granularity that allows benchmarking. Global companies working with a network of plants, warehouses and other facilities will be challenged to embark on this type of a project if they lack any of these requirements. Even then, the planning involved for such a project can be overwhelming, including how to identify and align all similar plants to the same base line, in order to make sure they consistently share the evolution and progress made for the benefits of all. But, the rewards for those that succeed could spell the difference between being the industry leader and falling behind to laggard industry performance.
Does your company monitor and align its processes in an efficient, global manner, even when those processes are frequently updated?