Are Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing beyond the interest of your small business? Definitely not, since your competitors are looking for every advantage they can get. Instead of giving your hard-won customers to other companies, leverage what larger enterprises and skilled researchers have learned about operational excellence. The Houston Chronicle’s column for small business can help you get a head-start.
Much of the efforts for operational excellence center on becoming more aware of your business functions. Until you clearly see how things are working, it’s difficult to spot how they could work better. This makes it important to identify the workflows in your business. Map out the people, tools, and processes, plus the resources, communications, and procedures needed to deliver your product to a customer. This can be as simple as a diagram on paper or as complex as a major software package. Whatever method you use, the benefit of identifying the most valuable aspects of your operations will support intelligent decisions for improvement.
The other primary source of information about improving your company comes from your clients. When you get this kind of data, make sure that everyone on the team sees it, understands it, and can look for ways to do better. Whether it comes from online surveys or personal interviews, each team member needs to be aware of how the whole team is perceived by the customer.
Identify the key measures that show your current degree of financial, customer satisfaction, internal process, and employment excellence. Use these scorecards and baselines to identify how each process improvement initiative affects the company. At first you’ll be learning what it is you need to learn, but once you have this organizational awareness, you’ll be able to carefully hone your business processes.
The burden of improving the business doesn’t have to be a heavy load on just you or a few key people. Invest in ways to keep everyone on the team concentrated on the high-value efforts that will make the biggest difference in productivity. Great ideas can come from any corner of your facilities, but only if people know what to look for and if they feel comfortable voicing their ideas.
These suggestions can’t be implemented overnight of course. But with steady effort, the value of operational excellence will become obvious. One way to jump-start the process is with software that maximizes visibility of key data. The aACE 5 business suite connects ERP, CRM, and accounting data, with reports in place to highlight vital aspects of your operations. Don’t wait to get more information about aACE 5–and about your company.