Each of the below projects had a unique purpose, a unique flow and use of our methodology. Not all of them were classic Process Improvement Projects that required an analysis of the “Is” and design of the “Should.” In each project, however, a cross-functional team used mapping and other Process Improvement tools to address a Critical Business Issue. The examples include all four uses of Process Improvement:
- Solving a current problem (billing quality)
- Improving a process that is basically satisfactory but has room for improvement (customer service)
- Evaluating and implementing a change (acquiring a company)
- Designing a new system (the “factory of the future”)
A team in a computer component manufacturing firm was concerned about its low percentage of on-time delivery. A cross-functional team of twelve managers worked for four days to analyze the entire order-to-delivery process and to make a series of recommendations, which were implemented over a two-month period. This Process Improvement effort resulted in a reduction in average cycle time, from seventeen weeks to five weeks, and a 65 percent increase in on-time delivery. This process continued to be improved during the ensuing twelve months, and cycle time is now down to five days.
The senior management of a regional telephone company was concerned with the performance of its customer billing process, which involved nearly every function in the company. The Process Improvement effort was driven by the need to improve quality in an increasingly deregulated environment. Because of the breadth and complexity of the process, five cross-functional subprocess teams were formed. They found 183 disconnects in the process. Implementation of these improvements resulted in quality gains (based on customer surveys), cost savings, and a measurement system for tracking each function’s contribution to the overall process.
Three mid-level peer managers were under severe competitive pressure to significantly reduce the time their company took to design and develop a new communications product and get it into high-volume production. They initiated a cross-functional Process Improvement Project in which a team of twelve managers and engineers worked for five days. They analyzed the “Is” process and developed a “Should.” The new process has reduced product development and introduction from thirty-six to twelve months. New products proceed through the process under the watchful eye of a process oversight committee, which consists of the three managers who initiated the project.
A new telecommunications company was considering a growth-through-acquisition strategy. The chief executive officer and his top management team used mapping to document their entire sales-to-invoice process. They then broke into subgroups, each of which responded to a different scenario in which the organization acquired a company with certain characteristics. Each group used the map to identify the potential process problems and opportunities presented by that type of acquisition, as well as the Process Improvement actions that would be essential to the successful integration of the new company. This analysis was a major input to their acquisition decisions and to the implementation of their growth strategy.
A consumer products company was undergoing a reorganization that involved two new vice presidential positions and new roles for three existing vice presidents. To clarify these new responsibilities, the president and the vice presidents met for three days during one week. Using a map of their organization, the team decided how the organization would process three different types of orders and how the annual plan would be put together. The result was clarification of and agreement on the role of the major functions. They also identified and subsequently resolved issues that probably would have impeded the reorganization. This proactive use of Process Improvement enabled them to minimize “white space” problems in the new organization.
A new division president in a large insurance company, along with his field and home-office staffs, used mapping as a tool for clarifying field and home-office roles in making, implementing, and monitoring policy and in troubleshooting field problems. One of the significant benefits of their one-day meeting was the president’s comprehensive understanding of the flow and functional relationships within his new division.
An engineering and manufacturing firm was concerned about the flood of Japanese patents. The patent application process in this company took an average of two years, before the application was even submitted to the U.S. Patent Office. By analyzing and improving the process, a team was able to immediately reduce the time to six months, and it continues to improve.
A task force in a high-technology company began its design of its semiconductor “factory of the future” at the Organization Level, by specifying the goals and general parameters of the factory. The members then used “Should” Process Mapping (Level II) to design the production process and the key support processes. Lastly, they moved to Level III and identified the jobs, skill sets, and staffing required by the processes.
To keep up with the rapidly growing economy in one of the countries in which it operates, the managers of a bank credit card division wanted to substantially increase its business, while maintaining its cost structure. They sponsored a billing and payments Process Improvement Project. The results, which met or exceeded all of the goals established during Phase 1, included a 50 percent increase in transaction volume; a 20 percent reduction in operating expense through such actions as elimination of microfilming and storage costs and consolidation of mail (which alone saved $2 million); on-line resolution of customer service requests; reduction in merchant statement cycle time to forty-eight hours; and reduction in fraud losses.