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Key Technologies For Lean Process Improvement

Jun 5, 2008
Introduction - key technologies

The Internet as a tool has helped in process improvement efforts, the Lean way. Lean techniques rely on process cycle efficiency (PCE) as a measure of process execution speed. PCE is calculated as amount of value added time from total elapsed time.

A Lean process will have a PCE of 25 or more. Improving PCE means a reduction in non-value added activities and their removal from the process.

PCE=Value Added Time/Total Elapsed Time

Technologies like the Internet help bring in Lean process improvements. Some key technologies are listed below.

The Internet: Web-based applications are being developed by organizations to make Leaner processes. These portals are commonly used in order processes, from placing orders to logistics.

Many organizations, such as banks, even have portals for their end users. For example, a customer can apply for a credit card online and know their application status in just a few seconds.

Wireless Connectivity: Wireless technology has enabled many people such as Insurance industry claim adjusters to enter information directly into a software program from any remote location, thanks to wi-fi connectivity.

This decreases the amount of time wasted in the movement of documentation to processing destinations.

Automated workflow systems: In production process, there is a relatively long cycle time as the components like paper work tend to be stuck in queues at workstations. Automated workflow systems have enabled the easy movement of critical items.

Certain items that need immediate attention have alerts programmed in to cut down on long waiting periods. This easily enables Lean process improvement.

Scanning and Digitization: Scanning and Digitization of documents that come in for processing is one technological development that has assisted in faster processing of critical information.

These scanned documents can traverse geographical boundaries, enabling employees at varied locations to process and turn them around in the minimum possible time. It also helps reduce the wasteful movement of paper around the company.

Service Oriented Architectures (SOA): Some up-to-date shipping companies are using technology in coordination with their customers. They are allowing their back- end software to be accessed by the software of other organizations, who have tied in with them for their shipping activities. The SOA technology allows software systems from varied organizations to exchange information automatically without any human intervention - saving both time and money.

SOA enables reducing the time consuming exchange of paper among organizations and eliminates redundant data.

Online CRM systems and FAQ systems: Many organizations have online Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems in place to allow end users to get quick trouble shooting of their problems. There are also FAQ sections and online complaint centers, which ensure that the customers get an immediate response and a solution to the problem that they are facing.

These systems are available 24 hours for people with Internet connectivity - and they also respond quicker than telephonic complaints and queries.

These key technologies have enabled Lean process improvement efforts to be successful to a large extent. It has helped reduce paperwork and unnecessary movements of components and thus eliminated waste from the process. PCE is seen to have improved manifold for organizations.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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