Operational Excellence for Business Excellence: The KAIZEN™ Way!

If only all wishes could come true! All of us know that a lot of grit, commitment, hard work combined with SMART work is required to turn dreams into action and success.  Every business aspires for excellence in its business.

- Profits,
- Growth and
- Fairnesswhile dealing with all stake holders are the corner stones of Business Excellence.

What are the building blocks of Business Excellence? One is Strategy.  Let’s term it as it as strategic excellence. This is the organizations ability to think of ways to create differentiation. Strategy must help an organization stand out – it is about making solid plans which can lead the organization towards growth and profits. On the flip side is Operational Excellence. Strategy must be met with good execution. Operations is the  “bridge” that connects strategy with business success/ excellence.

Let me assume for a movement that the strategy is done – it in place and well thought off. The focus now shifts to Operations. How can we execute the plans while ensuring the resources are used most efficiently? This is where Lean thinking or KAIZEN™ comes in. Lean is about getting more with less or just the right quantity of inputs.

Operation Excellence demands Lean and KAIZEN™ thinking! While Lean or KAIZEN™ thinking focuses on waste reduction by making the people capable to identify waste and remove it. Lets look at two types of waste.

Visible Waste – waste that can be seen:

When one walks into a shop floor there are many things one can observe with minimal efforts…

- Dirt
- Disorder
- Leaking machines
- Material placed in a disorganized manner
- People using no personal protective equipment’s and donning uniforms
- And more..

These are right there, in front one’s eyes. The challenge is to observe it and not just ‘see’ it everyday! When ones starts observing; it is said the process of change begins! No observation, no problems; no problems; no improvements! So Observation + Improvements

Invisible Waste – difficult to see and attack:

What about:

- Unused human potential?
- Poor sharing of information?
- Office related delays…slow or poor decision making, waiting, complex processes ?

These waste are also killers, but often disguised! Let me just take the first one. Unused human potential is a national challenge, let alone it being an organizational challenge. Millions of people with fertile brains, but untapped! How do we deal with this? Often in organizations, there is no system in place to engage with employees to tap their ideas and improvement suggestions! They are simply asked to follow orders! The going trend is - majority must only act, while a privileged few will think! How about waste with purchasing or waste in design or R&D process? There are not readily visible and one must engage tools like process mapping, value stream mapping to get to the bottom.

Add or Delete?

The final challenge is to Add or Delete while improving! Most people prefer to Add resources or throw resources at a problem. For example, if a machine is breaking down often; add a new machine is a common management decision. Or if sales are less, add more sales men or if the finished goods warehouse is cramped, add more space is the common solution. While ‘adding’ maybe the appropriate solution in some situations; improving by ‘deleting’ is the KAIZEN™ or Lean way to solve problems!  Try to delete waste & problems, before deciding to add new resources! Can we stop the breakdowns in the machine, before buying a new machine? Can we learn and apply TPM? Can we study the sales process and find and burst the bottle necks before hiring more salesmen ?  Can the FLOW of inventory be improved via just in time methods solve the space crunch at the FG warehouse ?

So one can see that many challenges existing while one tries to convert plans into actions, but for a Lean and KAIZEN™ mind these challenges are opportunities to improve! The Lean mind looks for visible and invisible waste. It is a mind that looks for deletion before addition!

In closing let me share with you that Operational Excellence impacts the customers via:

- High Quality Products
- Predictable Delivery Schedules
- Stable Pricing
- Responsive Customer Service

Are the above not the drivers of Business Excellence?

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