Errol is Lean practitioner with over 10 years of hands-on experience in leading business transformation initiatives in retail-apparel, healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, utilities, and retail-grocery. Errol has his master's in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.
A Process Engineer’s Secret Sauce
Jul 10 2012
Process engineering at its roots is the discipline used to evaluate processes to identify inefficiencies and define improvement strategies. Each of us does this daily on some scale when you implement a solution to overcome some inefficiency. For example, you avoid known traffic areas to minimize delay, you multi-task while your coffee is brewing, and you park close to the entrance to reduce transportation time. So, it seems easy enough – right? It becomes more difficult to apply this thought process outside of your personal life and into business world. Doing this effectively in business is a Process Engineer's (PE) secret sauce.
There are personal situations where the analysis required to minimize inefficiency is just too great or too complex for the amount of benefit you will receive. If you have eight stops to make on a day of errands, do you analyze mileage to determine the shortest route? Do consider where you will be at certain time intervals so you can have efficient stops for a bite to eat or an ice cream treat? Do you pull down current traffic patterns? Do you consider when stores may be busy or not? You probably don’t do all of these. You don’t assess all the areas where there can be inefficiency and build solutions that mitigate the waste. But what you probably do is know where you want to start, generally assess the most efficient order of stops, and know where you want to eat etc. Plus, in personal life, the last thing a leisurely day out with family needs is a task master managing every activity to a schedule. I can say I have never done that! (wink).
What is a PE’s secret sauce in business? How do we take the analytics that we all generally have the ability to perform and apply it to business? The key is back to the definition of Process Engineering where we see the word discipline. Discipline is using a structured toolset to collect and observe processes and using statistics and Lean to analyze the captured data. You can still assess a process in short-order and gauge where some of improvement potential lies. Studying the solution in detail using Lean and Six Sigma tools will provide you 1) the data to support your hypothesis and define your business case, 2) an understanding of culture or organizational impacts that will influence your implementation plan, and 3) additional areas of improvement that you didn’t initially see.
The critical skill inherent in a good PE is the discipline used in assessing processes and analyzing data to extract out the most influential and cost justified recommendations. CapTech has defined a consistent and repeatable process to do just this. We take simple opportunities found in the current state and create detailed and useful recommendations that can be leveraged in future state models.
- Opportunities are identified when analyzing the current state. These are short statements documenting the found waste. Here are some examples: Bottleneck at order entry completion – or – Combine ‘order completion’ and ‘fulfill assignment tasks’ into same job role.
- All of the opportunities under a business domain are reviewed and qualified into recommendations using Lean and Six Sigma tools. The use of the tools will result in the opportunities being combined, modified, and exploded into additional details. Many of the tools listed here are discussed in other blogs on this site and can be found through searches.
- Before the recommendation is complete, there are some documentation standards that need to be followed. The recommendation must include actors, triggers, inputs, outputs, business rules, constraints, risks or issues, and preliminary value. Having this content ensures the recommendation is useable in the future state.
- As the recommendation is wrapped-up, it is filed with the other recommendations awaiting prioritization and use in the future state.
A PE’s secret is in the processes we follow. Our charge is to make processes more efficient and streamlined. We drink our own cool-aid by having detailed processes that act as guides during our build of impactful recommendations that will be placed into future state models that dazzle our business and IT customers.