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Business Process Improvement
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The Business Process Improvement (BPI) practice involves discovering, mapping, documenting, analyzing, and redesigning a business process to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

Every business owner has to deal with hundreds of business processes. Many of them are repeatable, such as demo calls, marketing campaigns, and reports on sales activities. Millions of dollars in revenue can be lost due to any bottleneck in a repeatable process. 

Every function, department, team, or person has its processes, and sometimes the efficiency of a process is overlooked. Business growth and performance can be seriously affected by this.

Continuous Business Process Improvement involves taking measures to maintain and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of all your business processes.

Learn how to improve your business processes by diving deeper into the concept of Business Process Improvement.

What is Business Process Improvement?

A business process improvement (BPI) approach identifies and evaluates inefficiencies within an organization. Redesigning existing business tasks improves effectiveness, enhances workflows, and optimizes performance. 

You can supercharge your business operations by continuously improving your processes. By incrementally improving your business processes, you will experience better operations and a better quality of life.

Also Read: What is Process Mining? All You Need to Know

Real-Life Business Process Improvement example

Let us use making pancakes as an example of how process improvement works.

Sunday mornings are for fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth pancakes, right? That’s for sure. Don’t you feel frustrated when you spend so much time and effort making pancakes that turn out to be dense and chewy? It’s edible and tastes fine with syrup, but the texture isn’t right.

Next Sunday, you are determined to improve your pancake-making process. When you sit down, you compare a perfect pancake recipe with your own. As a result, you determine the following differences.

  • There is an extra egg yolk in your recipe
  • The pancakes are pressed onto the pan (for a crisper edge).
  • Your pancakes are being flipped too soon (you can’t wait to eat them, can’t you?)

Based on your observations, you did all the right things this time and got the following results:

  • One egg is saved by you
  • You make delicious, fluffy, and soft pancakes
  • Your Sunday was more enjoyable because you were happy!

Making pancakes is similar to business processes but much more complex. Evaluate the scope for Business Process Improvement and constraints as it requires time, effort, and dedication, but it reaps the rewards – cost-savings, better outcomes, and better operating efficiency.

Also Read: Top Business Process Management Stats to help you add efficiency in 2023

Business Process Improvement Methodologies

Let’s examine the popular BPI methodologies which have proven effective across various industries.

1. Six Sigma

Developed by Motorola engineers, Six Sigma measures defects or inconsistencies in a process. As a result, the end product can be improved.

Six Sigma can also determine process efficiency. A “Six Sigma Process” produces no more than 3.4 defects out of a million outputs.

Six Sigma includes DMAIC as one of its core tools for process improvement. Each part consists of 5 parts.

  • Define – Identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Measure – Determine the metrics you will use to benchmark newly implemented processes.
  • Analyze – Identify any defects or inconsistencies.
  • Improve – Eliminate the problems mentioned above.
  • Control – Make sure there are no new problems with the updated process.
Six Sigma Business Process Improvements

2. Lean

While Six Sigma aims to eliminate defects to improve product quality, Lean aims to optimize the process. Cutting out a low-value step in a process would, for example, result in higher employee productivity but would have little impact on the end product.

Toyota developed the system to shorten the order-to-cash cycle. Lean process improvement typically involves the following steps.

  1. Defining what value means to the end-user
  2. Analyzing the process and identifying non-value-adding steps
  3. Remove or modify steps that don’t add value
  4. If other business processes need to be optimized, repeat steps 1 through 3 until the organization becomes sufficiently efficient
Lean

3. Total Quality Management (TQM)

Originally developed in the 1950s, total quality management (TQM) became popular in the early 1980s.

The main priority of the Lean methodology is delivering value to the end customer. TQM, on the other hand, focuses on an organization as a whole instead of individual processes. Each department within the company (from engineering to marketing) should be optimized with customer values in mind.

The real strength of TQM lies in the alignment of the entire organization. Implementing change, it’s not just up to senior management – it’s a company-wide initiative.

4. Theory of Constraints (TOC)

Inefficiency is solved by TOC BPI methodology as follows:

  • Find out what constraint is causing the bottleneck 
  • The constraint should be improved until its negative effects are eliminated

With the successful implementation of this approach, the company’s productivity increases, the product flow is streamlined, and the workflow is optimized, eliminating inefficient bottlenecks.

TOC is generally based on the Five Focusing Steps methodology, which includes the following steps:

  • Bottleneck identification 
  • The removal of this constraint
  • The constraint’s correction should be synchronized with all other activities 
  • Identifying additional options for eliminating the bottleneck
  • The emergence of an era of inefficiency

It is important to keep in mind that the TOC is continuous. When one constraint is eliminated, the second bottleneck comes to TOC’s attention.

Also Read: 5 ways to drive Process Improvement in your Organization

Examples Of Business Process Improvement Projects

1. Bulk purchasing reduces waste

Situation

Various medicines are blended into a base ointment in a regional pharmacy chain. Pharmacy staff observe that the ointment is purchased in one-ounce jars, and they use 50 jars per day of the product. Furthermore, she points out that their supplier offers a 50-ounce jar of ointment that has a much lower price per ounce; the company could save money by switching suppliers.

The Business Process Improvement

Ensure that the preference for bulk ointment purchases is documented in the official operating procedures. The purchasing staff should be instructed to use the 50-ounce jar as a default. Ensure that training materials are delivered through a learning management system, and verify that staff has completed the training.

Also read: 23 Must-Have Features of a BPM Platform that you definitely need!

2. Preparing for failures in the process

Situation

For the development of innovative blogs and web pages, content writers interview subject matter experts (SMEs). From the initial interview request email to the draft publication, the writers follow a process map which outlines each step.

The process runs smoothly when everything goes according to plan. This is what we refer to as the happy path. There are, however, complications in the real world. In this case, the SME may not be able to attend the interview.

The internet connection can fail halfway through. It is also possible for the client to reject the draft in its entirety. These situations can derail publication schedules, which opens the door to errors.

The Business Process Improvement

Writers themselves – the frontline staff in charge of the process – are the most reliable source for spotting instances that stray from a happy path. The team can minimize publication delays by documenting potential disruptions and developing plans for handling them. Then, the company’s operating procedures must be updated to reflect those improvements. Training materials on the revised procedures are first developed by management, and the writers are verified as having completed the training.

Also Read: All you need to know about Business Process Maturity Model

3. Protocols for improving safety

Situation

In a major airline, safety-related processes are the ones that must be optimized most – and, as this example illustrates, this includes processes that deviate from the path of happiness. This example illustrates the flight of an experienced pilot between two US cities to repair his aircraft. There is a problem with the landing gear of the plane. Although this does not prevent flight, the pilot discovers that it causes excessive drag on the aircraft.

Airlines follow strict safety procedures, including a pre-flight checklist before any flight can take off. The aircraft completes the pre-flight checklist in preparation for takeoff. However, the checklist does not consider the additional drag created by the stuck landing gear, leading to a fuel shortage by the time it reaches its destination. As a result of the disciplined process developed over many years of experience, the pilot checks fuel capacity halfway through each flight by hand. To refuel, he lands early because he will not have enough fuel to reach his destination.

The Business Process Improvement

A similar innovation can be scaled across the airline’s entire fleet. Pilot operating procedures should include mid-flight fuel checks. To ensure compliance, train and certify employees.

4. Error prevention in shipping

Situation

A mid-sized wholesaler supplies manufacturers with components, delivering pallet loads directly to plants. In this case, the delivery driver arrives at the address on file to discover that it is not a manufacturing facility but rather a residence. The client owns a small business. The billing address on the credit card refers to the owner’s home, while the shipping address refers to the manufacturing facility. A costly process defect occurred due to delivery staff mixing up the client’s billing and shipping addresses.

The Business Process Improvement

Double-check shipping addresses against billing addresses by updating operating procedures. All delivery drivers must complete training materials (videos, online courses, written documents). Ensure all relevant staff has viewed the materials.

5. Enhancing inventory management

Situation

Tracking and ordering supplies for a food and beverage company specialising in research and development is sometimes chaotic. Different teams of chefs work on different projects, but they all use the same ingredients. A team member who needs an ingredient must check the inventory in storage to see if it is available. Even if he can’t, it doesn’t mean the company does not have the ingredient; maybe another team is using it now. Supply ordering is often unnecessary in this scenario, resulting in rush delivery fees and unnecessary supply orders.

The Business Process Improvement

Implementing a central management system for inventory management, order tracking, and document organization is imperative.

Using a mobile application, employees could check out ingredients from an automatically tracked inventory rather than manually checking storage.

Ingredient orders should also be submitted through the central application, so all team members can see pending orders. Suppliers’ protocols and relevant documents should also be centralized and easily accessible during the ordering process.

Also Read: Business Process Reengineering: Is it the perfect solution for your problems?

Conclusion

The right time to start using BPI is now that you understand how it works. Your company’s bottom line doesn’t benefit much from theorizing.

It might be smart to give Quixy a try to help you get off to a smooth start. Workflow management software tends to go hand-in-hand with business process improvement services.

Take the first step towards making your processes more efficient by mapping, optimizing, and streamlining them with Quixy.

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