Control Tool Effectiveness and Sustainability

The effectiveness and sustainability of control tools vary. For this reason, they are used in combination to ensure successful and sustainable outcomes. Table 6.1 lists common control tools and compares their effectiveness and sustainability. If a root cause is due to communication breakdowns between functions then a modification of organizational reporting structures may improve operational efficiency. Changing an organizational reporting structure eliminates redundancies and inter-functional friction. This has the effect of reducing miscommunication, long lead times, and mistakes. Different functions or teams will have different performance metrics as well as reward and recognition systems. Their goals may not be fully aligned. An example would be the classic roles and responsibilities of sales versus operations. Sales want to sell products, but operations must efficiently produce them. The metrics driving the behavior of a sales organization and operations need to be aligned to ensure the right products are efficiently produced for sale. Modifying organizational structures, especially from

TABLE 6.1

Control Tool Effectiveness and Sustainability

Specific Process Changes

Effectiveness

Ability to Sustain

Modify organizational reporting structures

High

High

Eliminate portions of a process

High

High

Create new or modified process designs and layouts

High

High

Purchase or design new types of equipment

High

High

Implement 5S, mistake-proofing, and similar Lean methods

High

Medium

Statistical process control

Medium

Medium

Process audits and monitoring such as statistical process control

Medium

Medium

Create new operational and financial metrics

Medium

Medium

Create new information reporting systems

Medium

Medium

Modify work, testing, inspection, maintenance, and other procedures

Low

Low

Training programs

Low

Low

Verbal instructions

Low

Low

end to end rather than in isolation, tends to smoothen the flow of materials and information.

Another very effective control method is the elimination of portions of a process or a redesign including its operational work tasks. The effectiveness and sustainability of this type of solution are also high. This is because if a portion of a process can be eliminated, then lead time, cost, and quality issues associated with the part of the process that is eliminated will disappear with the reduction in process complexity. In a similar manner, if part of a process can be redesigned to be less complex and mistake-proofed, then its efficiency is increased. Common process redesigns include changes to equipment, the layout of the process, the work, and inspection procedures as well as others.

Changes to operational and financial metrics could also be part of the overall improvement strategy if they were found to be misleading. This type of change has a medium level of effectiveness and sustainability because people may not adhere to the measuring and reporting changes over time, and there may be problems gathering data for timely reporting. Also, an implementation of 5S and similar Lean methods is a very effective control tool, but requiring daily attention to ensure sustainability.

Less sustainable controls are process audits, statistical process control, modification of work, testing, inspection, maintenance and other procedures, training programs, group meetings, and verbal instructions. Statistical process control is effective for monitoring and controlling processes, but in some situations where it is manual it may be difficult to sustain unless the variables being charted are critical for operations. Audits are also useful process controls but lag the occurrence of errors. Training while useful must be clearly aligned with the root cause analysis and frequently updated to ensure people have the requisite skills to do their work. Frequent training is required because new people are onboarded, and others forget previous training information. There are effective ways to keep people refreshed using system prompts such as drop-downs that provide reminders on how to do work tasks. This type of training can be deployed at a low cost and is easily kept current. Verbal instructions are easily misunderstood and very difficult to sustain. The summary for Table 6.1 is the most effective way to ensure process improvement is to directly eliminate the root causes from the process. If this cannot be done, then several improvement methods are often blended to create an integrated solution.

 
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