Over the past few months I challenged you to consider business processes as an asset that should be actively managed, maintained and continuously improved, both within your plant and beyond the four walls. This process can only be accomplished with a system that provides visibility and control over your business processes so you can maintain effective governance over process revisions as well as maintain process consistency. Now I would like to talk about best practices on accomplishing global process consistency and version control, both across your organization as well as out to your partners and product supply network.
When discussing a business process, it is important to understand that a process is “born” and will “live” based on a necessity or need that existed at the time of inception. For example, a process to reset a particular machine might have come into existence based on a new product launch from last year, which dictated the equipment be reset based on a new material component that didn’t work without this “fix.” Over time, the need for this special exception may disappear; new plants may omit it, however, the original process may remain intact, unnecessarily. Another example is a process that has been subject to several improvements, such that the original process structure is no longer recognizable.
Each of these process introductions and evolutions typically occurs autonomously, on a plant by plant basis, based on a unique set of circumstances and production requirements. As more users are involved, the greater the potential for process inconsistency within a single plant. Expand your analysis of process structure to multiple facilities across your manufacturing enterprise, and it is easy to see the likelihood for any process consistency across locations is virtually impossible.
There is a compelling need to establish and maintain process consistency across locations. Here are six reasons why you should be thinking about improving your process consistency:
- Significant performance gains from every time a process is identified and improved, directly based on the number of facilities sharing a common process; amplifies Lean manufacturing programs
- Reduced factory employee training costs, from a resource availability and cost perspective; if processes are consistent across locations, staff can be easily “swapped” out or relocated, as needed
- Lower IT support costs from faster troubleshooting, training and issue resolution
- Higher quality, based on the fact that if a defect or non-conformance event is discovered, it can be contained faster if all processes are consistent across locations
- Accelerated ERP (and other) enterprise application deployment; a consistent process “footprint” across all plants can greatly simplify integration requirements
- Ease of achieving regulatory compliance, especially within highly regulated industries
So, what can be done? One approach that works quite well is to establish a Center of Excellence (COE) team responsible for managing all common, shared processes. This approach can yield process consistency across your entire manufacturing enterprise, provided you have a platform-based manufacturing operations management system to support the team. My colleague Michal Piatkowski wrote an excellent post on “How a Center of Excellence Can Become an Engine for Continuous Improvement” that I would encourage you to read to learn more. Not only can you improve your process for process improvement, but at the same time, you can accomplish greater process consistency for even greater overall benefits.
From what I have observed, those that successfully implement a COE achieve process consistency and performance improvement on a global scale. The resulting benefits eclipse the costs, time and effort it took to accomplish this objective. What do you think? Have you had experience with a COE? I am eager to learn more and hear your feedback!