BPI Exercise - Process Walk Through on the Floor

Business Process Improvement Projects have become a way of life with every Business Organization where they initiate these projects to elevate their internal operational efficiencies to achieve higher benchmark and to help them build an edge over competition.

BPI projects help not only increase the efficiency of the operations, but benefit by reducing the cost as well as the cycle times as well.

BPI projects do not confine themselves to any one area of operation or department. Any of the processes or functions can be subject to BPI project in order to overhaul the process and increase operational efficiency.

As the BPI project involves time, resources and effort, the Business Managers choose the process judiciously keeping in mind their business goals and the customers.

BPI Team’s effectiveness depends upon the individual skill sets as well as the training that is provided to them regarding the BPI concept, the methodology and the use of statistical tools and problem solving techniques.

The BPI project takes off with detailed process mapping and flow chart preparation. Preparing detailed flow chart requires that the PIT (Process Improvement Team) members walk through the operations in detail, examine every task minutely and record the same.

Using the right kind of flow chart to depict the entire process, mark the process boundaries as well as identify the input and outputs from and to the process is very important to be able to get the accurate picture of the process at macro as well as micro detail.

Once the flow charts have been prepared and reviewed, the second phase of activity that unfolds is the Process Walk Through with a view. At this stage, the process characteristics including the cycle time, the resource quantification, the effectiveness, the efficiency and cost of operations have got to be determined and the process measured with respect to these characteristics. The findings can be used as the base line to establish the current status of the process so that the improvements once carried out can be measured against the baseline and evaluated.

Process consists not only of procedure, flow, documentation, input, output, tools and system etc, but more importantly it consists of people. It is the people who drive the process and make things happen. Therefore viewing the process through the people’s eyes becomes very important.

At this stage, the process walk through is better understood if the same is carried out with People who are involved in the process. Walking through the entire process and reviewing the process and the people who are involved can be an exhaustive exercise.

Therefore it is advisable to break up the process into parts and assign two BPI members along with the supervisor of the team to form a team.

A team of three members would be ideal to walk through a part of the process and examine the operation, document as well as the understanding of the operator who manages the process. Since the supervisor who is aware of the overall process and the criticality of the every task is involved, it would help the BPI project team to understand and identify problems and gaps easily.

Walking through the part of the process by the individual team calls for carrying out detailed homework before proceeding with the walkthrough. The team needs to collect the process chart, the documentations, all the input and output details as well as the quality records that are collected. Besides it is important to collect study and understand each of the job description or the task description in detail.

After studying all the records, the BPI team can ideally construct a detailed questionnaire that helps them gather the relevant data and information apart from the discussions and observations during the walk through.

The detailed questionnaire should try to verify and find out details from all angles including roadblocks faced, hurdles, the quality and frequency of training provided to the operator as well as the work culture and environment that could be hampering or aiding the operator’s efficiency and the process efficiency.

Once the process walk through has been completed, the logical step would be to meet the supervisor or the departmental manager of the particular process and interview him. The BPI team should gather his inputs and understanding of the process and the team as well as provide him with their finding during the process walk through and record his feedback on the observations separately.

Collection of exhaustive data, records, findings and observations will help the BPI team to report their findings which will throw a lot of light on the problem areas. The findings can often bring out factors like mis-match between the process document to the actual operation, need for re-training, infrastructural issues, soft issues that need to be addressed as well as the various reasons that is hampering the process efficiency and output.

Process walk through along with the people can be a very sensitive part of the project and calls for careful planning and handling with right sensitivity.

When dealing with people, it is important to create the right environment where they feel free and encouraged to explain as well as provide the right inputs and express their opinions fearlessly.

Planning the schedule, communicating with the departmental heads who will in turn communicate with his team and facilitate the entire exercise and explaining the entire walk through procedure to the team forms an important part of the project exercise. Dressing right, speaking right and maintaining timelines also help guide the project in the right way.

The people’s dimension when added to the process that has been mapped provides a different view to the PIT observer.

Variables with reference to people’s abilities, skills, understanding and other factors like language and cultural barriers, values and outlook etc provide a different picture to the operations on hand. In fact the problem areas begin to show up once the human angle that is contributing to the process has been added.

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