Process excellence trends teach us that there is currently more focus on speed and time reduction. Any process, in production or service environment, always has 3 metrics: quality, cost (efficiency) and (delivery) time. In the past, much attention has been paid to quality and cost. In recent years, the focus for Process Excellence has shifted to reducing TIME. Consider the increasing use of successful methods such as Lean Manufacturing, Lean Office and most recently Quick Response Manufacturing which focuses almost exclusively on time reduction.
This focus on time has mainly come about due to the greatly increased customer expectation to now, very quickly, obtain information "on the spot" via smartphones, tablets, QR labels, ... New IT technologies and digitalisation of information have helped to satisfy this information hunger. The focus on time also affects how Process Excellence will be implemented in the future. 3 trends are recognised:
Trend 1: Customer centricity
There is more differentiation between customers (just think of differences in customer expectations between "baby boomers" and "millenials"). Customers want more value for what they get, more results for less money. Companies need to focus on functional requirements for the customer and offer a total experience. Customer expectations are changing faster and faster in today's world of digital technology, becoming more customer-specific and personalised. Making processes customer-centric is then an obvious action.
Trend 2: Speed
Price as a criterion will never disappear, but service and speed are becoming more critical. Therefore, process professionals should orient their Excellence programmes towards speed which leads to subsequent underlying adjustments to these programmes:
- Selection of smaller projects becomes crucial to deliver results faster
- Faster project delivery (e.g. < 3 months)
- Use of flexible methods and tools to quickly adapt to rapidly changing circumstances
- Process Excellence programmes introduced throughout the company so that everyone can improve at their level
- Process automation and digitalisation are two IT tools that help bring in speed without compromising process knowledge that must be retained
- Better collaboration between process professionals and IT and bringing together IT technology capabilities with process excellence methods
- More involvement of process professionals in IT projects
Trend 3: Process Excellence programme in line with strategy
The objectives for Process Excellence are shifting from deploying a method to more pragmatic application of tools that help support the strategy. Which method is used for this is less important than before, as long as the results are achieved. It is no longer about: 'we need to do lean or six sigma, but we need to do rapid process improvement'. Rather than as a separate programme, process improvement is seen as a key pillar supporting strategy. At Stanwick's clients too, we see this trend towards applying less one specific method e;g. lean or six sigma, but towards using useful tools that contribute directly to the company's objectives, regardless of the name given to those tools. Continuous (process) improvement is the evergreen that will always be needed, the underlying tools such as lean, 6 sigma, etc. are temporary additions and tools to help realise this evergreen. So it comes down to continuing to systematically improve processes.
A basic condition for meeting those 3 trends is to learn to deal properly with data, which become available faster and in larger quantities. The challenge is to translate the many data into good insight and good information with which relevant actions and decisions can be taken quickly.
Source: 'The future of Process Excellence, 3 trends redefining process excellence in the digital age', PEX Process Excellence network