Welcome back to the Arrow MHP blog! As a true dealer partner, we strive to add value to your daily operation outside of engineering quality products for your customers. For this edition, we want to dive into process optimization — why it is important and how to go about improving your processes and ultimately your customer experience.
Process optimization is the practice of incrementally adjusting a business process towards its maximum potential without negatively affecting other parts of the process. The most common goals of process optimization are minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency, common and ongoing goals for almost any business.
At first glance, it may seem like process optimization is a fancy way of saying “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” However, you could find ways to make small improvements that result in big rewards by examining your processes. Any function of your business can be explored as the “process” in question and evaluated step-by-step to identify areas that have room for improvement. Refreshing the approach can breathe new life into a business that is stuck in its own way or only thinks certain areas are improvement opportunities. Process optimization puts all options back on the table and can be treated like a return to the drawing board.
Answering these questions and others that come up will get you much closer to having a cohesive process that moves as quickly and efficiently as possible, getting you out of the doing-things-the-way-they-have-always-been-done mentality.
Identifying wasted money, product and time is critical in optimization because it is going to be the easiest area to see results. Sometimes it can go hand in hand with streamlining and you realize that you are already saving time, but other times it encourages you to be more resourceful and consider everything that you are spending money on as a resource. This mindset can open the door to drastic improvement.
Correcting common errors in the process you are evaluating can be as simple a tweak that has not been thought of before. Understanding what steps or actions in the process carry the most risk also allows you to insulate those steps and make sure you keep the errors to a minimum. Without evaluation, common errors can just become another part of the process instead of being addressed correctly.
Assessing quality is something every business should do. The keys are to listen to both your customers and internal stakeholders and continuously review your product, services and processes. Identifying areas for improvement before a customer reports a quality issue can save valuable resources in the long run. Proactive improvement is vital to improving overall customer satisfaction.
Customer satisfaction should be objective #1 for any business. If you cannot answer the above questions with insightful information from customers, that is where this step should begin. When you don’t offer a constant repository for feedback, you often only hear negative issues or complaints. By constantly soliciting feedback, you are offering customers a place to share the good, not just the needs improvement. You can use the feedback to replicate the positive experience for more customers or even adjust your target audience if you see trends in the types of customers that are satisfied with you.
At our corporate manufacturing facility, we constantly handle forklift forks. Between selling and using them, forklift forks have a big footprint on our business. Through conversation and observation, it was realized that the way forks were being handled was not as efficient or safe as it could be. Some of the process optimization checklist items that applied in our case were:
To improve this process, our engineering, production and material handling teams worked together to create a new tool for internal use: “the fork handler”. This new tool transports multiple forks safely at once, and can be used to install forks on a forklift without ever needing to touch the forks by hand. This tool made a positive impact on efficiency and reduced the possibility for several OSHA recordable workplace injuries. Dealers and others who handle forks have shown extreme interest in the fork handler and we are now offering them as a new product – passing on the benefits of our process optimization to end users.
What do you think is the most important step above? Do you have any process optimization success stories to share? Questions about process optimization? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!
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