Working Environment

It is important that the work environment supports production. Associates who are an integral part of a new process should be well trained in its operations to achieve time, cost, and quality targets. There are actions to ensure an efficient working environment. The first is executive leadership that communicates the organization’s vision and especially with respect to operations, in clear and concise terms. This helps prioritize work and allocate resources efficiently. Organizational values should be promoted in a consistent manner. Consistency is important to minimize misunderstood priorities when it comes to project selection, execution, and resource allocation. Second, strategic goals should be aligned throughout an organization to show all associates how their work fits into the vision roadmap. This helps demonstrate how work, at a tactical level, is integrated across an organization. It is necessary to translate higher-level goals and objectives down through successively lower levels of the organization to ensure goal alignment at an initiative and project level. Communications should be simple and consistent with organizational norms and values. Resource alignment is also critical to ensure the workforce has the tools and resources necessary to do their work.

It is important to onboard and train people who have the organization’s core values including diversity. Having the right people at the start will minimize organizational barriers to collaboration and success. Employee incentive systems should also be consistent with organizational goals and values to reinforce needed behaviors. Removing other barriers to organizational change ensures it is reinforced at all levels. Tit is also important to efficiently execute strategic goals to meet productivity targets as well as enhance customer, supplier, employee, and shareholder satisfaction. Success breeds success and is a powerful motivator for future process improvement. Finally, it is important to develop learning systems to ensure employees are continuously learning and adapting to changing business conditions. These several actions improve process performance and increase competitiveness.

High-performance work teams are an integral part of process design. It makes no sense to design a competitive process if its workforce does not have proper incentives, training, and willingness to achieve productivity and quality targets. The first key step to develop high-performance work teams is to ensure the team understands its goals along with the work. The second step is to hold team members jointly accountable for the success or failure of their assigned projects. This will tend to increase cooperative behaviors and collaboration. Third is to ensure the team has a diverse and properly facilitated membership. Team members should have the required skills, and it is important to ensure the team has adequate resources. Clear roles and responsibilities are important. Systems should promote sharing information to further promote cooperation. Any team conflicts should be resolved in a positive manner using proper facilitation methods. To remain on schedule, effective project management practices should be used. Ideally a team will remain together for an extended period to mature into a high-performance team.

High-performance work teams mature through a four-stage process. These are the forming, storming, norming, and performing stages. In the forming stage, a team initially meets and starts creating common goals. Productivity is low in this formative stage. Basic facilitation tools and methods should be deployed in the formative stage to accelerate the maturation process. One of the most important facilitation tools, at this point, is a project charter. A charter specifies where the team will work, the resources required for its activities (including data collection and analysis), and eventual process recommendations for improvements. Other charter information includes deliverables for the work, expected business benefits (both financial and operational) and costs as well as the schedule, stakeholders, and other relevant information.

In the storming stage, conflicts often arise between team members because of different perspectives regarding how the work should proceed. Facilitation is especially useful in this stage. Facilitation includes agreement of how the team will govern itself to ensure disagreements are resolved and decisions are effectively made. In the norming stage of the team maturation process, the team’s productivity increases as it resolves team conflicts more effectively than in the storming stage. The team begins to achieve its goals and the project’s milestones. Finally, in the performing stage, the team works very well together to consistently achieve its goals. An important enabler of high-performance work teams is an organizations’ reward and recognition system. It should be aligned to recognize team’s contributions to the organization.

Work simplification is based on three concepts: not creating work if it is not needed, efficiently doing the work that should be done, and standardizing the work to be done so it is consistent regardless of the person or machine doing it. Work simplification starts with design. The fewer the components or assembly operations, the less work that is required to produce a product or deliver a service. This concept is embodied in the DFM concepts listed in Table 4.7. Another recommendation is employing simple automation and mistake-proofing of work operations to minimize the percentage of manual activities within a process workflow. This will reduce the direct labor requirements necessary to produce a product or service; it will reduce errors as well. Once the required operational sequences have been determined by process engineering, the flow of work across the system is balanced using the system’s takt time. Takt time is the number of units to be produced within an allocated time (e.g., a work shift). A previous example was having a production schedule of 80 units and 8 hours (480 minutes) of available manufacturing time. This requires a takt time of one unit every 6 minutes throughout the 8-hour shift. Once the takt time is calculated, the sequence of work tasks is grouped into workstations consisting of one or more work tasks. The cumulative completion time of all work tasks within a group or workstation must be less than or equal to the system’s takt time. In other words, if the takt time is one unit every 6 minutes, then the cycle time for every operation or workstation must be 6 minutes or less.

To achieve this takt time, work tasks are broken down into smaller groups of lower-level work tasks as shown in Figure 5.20. To do this, work tasks are studied to find the best way to complete them. Common methods to analyze work tasks are work sampling, micro-motion studies, and predetermined time standards from tables grouped by type of work task. Work sampling studies a work task over a period of time and determines the best way to accomplish it. Micro-motion studies are like work sampling but are more precise in determining task time duration because the tasks are broken down further into micro-motions. Cameras can be used to record each motion so they can be reviewed several times to achieve accurate calculations. Time duration is also measured at a microsecond level of precision. Predetermined time standards are applied up front to a new process design and later validated through work sampling or micromotion studies. Time standards are used with similar analyses of machine cycle times to balance the flow of work across a process to achieve the required takt time.

The data collection template shown in Figure 5.21 is useful for collecting process data for analysis to determine how much time is required to


How to identify lower-level work tasks.

complete a work task. An initial baseline analysis consists of an operation and the time required to complete each work task is recorded. The first analysis looks for wasted or non-value-add time. Next, time standards are calculated for each work task based on the elimination of wasted time and includes labor and the use of tools, materials, and fixtures. The work task is classified as setting up a job, inspection of work, doing the work, moving the work, or waiting for materials or information. As part of this analysis, unnecessary work tasks are eliminated, the remaining work tasks are mistake-proofed, and the time standards are updated. Finally, the employees that do the work are trained to use the new work methods, tools, and inspection and measurement systems. Visual examples of good and poor workmanship are also frequently used to control and improve work methods.


How to develop time standards.

Employee training is critical to a new process. To build an effective training program, the training is focused and its goals are clear. Goal alignment and clarity ensure training is beneficial to both the organization and its employees. It is also important to measure the training effectiveness as opposed to simply counting the number of trained employees. The training should be designed to appeal to different learning styles (e.g., somatic or touching, auditory, visual, and intellectual) to increase its effectiveness at an individual level and, by extrapolation, to the group level. Blended learning models are particularly helpful for increasing training effectiveness.

Blended learning combines on-line learning, workbooks, and presentation materials using a mix of instructor and participant presentations. Participants study training modules prior to meeting so that the instructor and participants are able to interact for a higher proportion of time during a workshop. Immediate application of training is another important consideration. Participants should immediately practice what they learn through applied projects. Effective training should create benefits that can be measured. To aid in this, post-training materials should be developed to reinforce the training concepts, with coaching and mentoring to clarify and reinforce the concepts. Finally, the training process should be continuously improved using the latest training methods and theories as well as participant feedback.


The design of a process directly correlates to the product or service that is produced. For this reason, process engineering works closely with the design team using concurrent engineering methods. Once the new process been designed and its operational relationships are documented, it is useful to quantitatively model it to understand dynamic relationships for optimization. The modeling approach will vary depending on the process, ranging from evaluating process layouts using a whiteboard to highly mathematical analyses. The information gained from process modeling helps reduce process variation and ensures the design intent will be realized. This approach reduces time and costs while improving quality. It is also important to create a work environment that reinforces organizational change, learning, and high-performance teams. Operations and their work tasks should be standardized and mistake-proofed. Finally, associates should be trained to use new tools and methods and to follow work and inspection instructions.


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