LSS Black Belts deal with processes and the problems behind them. At the beginning of a project we interview managers and operators who relate to the subject process and usually are told such things as “We’re doing our best. There is no problem.” or “That’s the other department’s fault.” How can we get all stakeholders on the same page?
One possible cause of disagreements occurring is that parts of a process are unclear, such as who does what, or how they should do it. This is typical when processes happen irregularly, especially if it remains unclear and each time it occurs people blame each other or ignore the problem. In any case, problematic outcomes remain. Flowcharting can help with this, but to find the root cause of the problem at this moment, it’s better to use Value Stream Mapping.
It’s a good idea to do a walk-through with managers who are related to the process, then make a value stream map. Start drawing high-level process steps, not too detailed, linking your process from the ‘vendor’ to the ‘customer’ – which could be an outside organization or another department – which the process gets input from or gives output to. I usually draw the flow of objects first and the flow of information second.
During a walk-through, pay attention to delays between steps and
excess inventory levels as well. They are critical points for process improvement. In order to examine root causes, apply 8 Wastes (Muda) to the critical points, and remember “DOWNTIME”, as defined below:
- Delay (Waiting)
- Waste and Rework
- Non-Value Added processing
- Emloyees Unused Creativity
On your value stream map, write these waste categories in the applicable place for delays or inventory levels. I recommend checking out this site to learn more about Value Stream Mapping.