Investing in People, Investing in Processes: Part I – Understanding the Process

G U E S T  A R T I C L E

Blast from the Past
Investing in People, Investing in Processes – I2P2
Part I – Understanding the Process
Steven Davies
Capital Quality News. 2002 Issue 2


During the presentation on the Transition to ISO 9000 v 2000 ( September meeting, ASQ Ottawa Valley Chapter) it became apparent that most of the questions that arose centred on how the «  processes » in an organization are defined.  Where do the people in the organization fit into these processes and how can understanding them help in their workplace?

That got me thinking… what does any organization actually do? Whether it provided a service, manufactures a product, Is a government bod, is a charity,  the only real investment in any company names is in two areas.  The people  that make the organization work and the way they do the work, that is the processes. Ok : some companies spend money on unimportant things like materials, components, software and so on.  But it is the processes and the people that account for the organizational success.

Think about it, do you really know how you fit into your organizational processes or system?  Ask your boss, bet you $5 that he doesn’t really know either.

How do you define a process?

There are a number of tools that are available to help you define a process.  A lot of these tools can be cumbersome and hard to use.  I intend to show you one tool that is easy to use, gives great results very quickly and will hopefully go a long way to help you understand your organization.

Process Mapping (PM)

Do a search on process mapping on the Internet and you will come up with 1000’s of different definitions. This particular process mapping technique, I have used a large number of times, always with startling and unexpected results.

Any process is defined as a number of steps or activities linked together.  Each activity can be categorized as one of four things : An Operation ( An absolutely essential activity), Transport (movement of material or information) a Delay (any waiting activity) and Inspection ( the checking of material or information) Any activity in an organization can be classified in this way.  For each of these categories we can utilise three key measures.  Time, Distance and People.

Process Mapping Example

Coming from the UK, I am going to give an easy example, and one dear to my heart, the process of making a really good cup of tea!  Note that each step of the process is categorized into one of the four areas ( designated as O, T, D or I). The distance in meters for each step is recorded, the number of people that are required to complete that process step and also the time to complete each step ( in this example in Minutes).  We can then go on to analyse the time spent per category.

If we convert the time per category to measure a percentage of the overall time taken, we can see visually how much time we waste on non Value-added activities.

Remember only Operations add value.  So in our above example, we spend 80% of our time not adding value to the organization.  We must now look and see how we can reduce this.  We can store all the materials required closer to the kettle ( Note that in making a simple mug of tea we have actually covered 24 m) buy a faster boiling kettle, reduce the amount of water in the kettle, remember to wear your glasses when looking for the tea bags, etc.

If the process above were a manufacturing Example, with each step then we would have a total of 18 people to make the cup of tea.  This us obviously not the case as the same «  operator » performs virtually all the steps apart from actually drinking the tea.  The « C » ( carryover ) in the « people » column indicates this.

You may have noticed that this version of Process Mapping does not take into account activities that happen in parallel.  In the above example, we could be looking for the teabags whilst the kettle is boiling.  There are techniques ( such as critical path analysis or CPA) that do take this into account.  The problem is that these are not as easy as Process Mapping.  They are great to use onçe you have fully utilized and exhausted the above analysis.  You must also note that this type of Process Mapping can easily be analyzed on a spreadsheet ( excel or similar).

Real Life Examples

Some examples of successful process Mapping projects employed by the author have been :

A manufacturer of backplanes reduced manufacturing lead times from 3 weeks (15 working days) to 5 days.  The author with a focus team at the supplier completely remodelled the manufacturing line.  This reduction in lead time reduced the work in process (WIP) by over 60% and brought the inventory in the supply chain down to the bare minimum safety stock required by the supply agreement disaster recovery plan (DRP).

Working with a component distributor to reduce the time spent Sales Order Processing (SOP). After a PM analysis 80 keystrokes were taken out of an SOP screen on the organisation’s ERP system.  This SOP process is performed between 10 and 30 times a day by up to 35 employees.  This means that between 28,000 and 84,000 keystrokes were taken out of the system per day.

Processes, People and Participation

PM follows beautifully from Quality Function Deployment (QFD) and into Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA).  The next article will give a strategic model on how to incorporate these elements into a Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle to optimise your processes in line with what your customers really want ( as opposed to what you think your customers want!)

I will also talk about how to expand on PM to get sone real return of investment with the people in the organisation,  investing in the Process leads to Investment in the People- I2P2.

Remember the more you rid your processes of non value – add activities, the less you will have to Document for your Quality Management System.



Ruth Stanley

The post has been contributed by Ruth Stanley, Chair, ASQOttawa Valley Section. You can contact Ruth using our contact form.


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