by Susan Dekker, Director, Integrated Insight
Improving operational efficiency is a team effort. One way to identify these potential improvements is through an “efficiency summit.”
What is an efficiency summit?
An efficiency summit is a gathering of key stakeholders with the specific goal to identify opportunities to improve operational efficiency. This is accomplished through structured observations and data analysis.
This is a concept found in “Lean” manufacturing under a slightly different name – a “waste walk.” The goal for a waste walk is to identify and eliminate any of the eight wastes: defects, overproduction, waiting, unused talent, transportation, inventory, motion, extra processing. But both “lean” and “waste” can have negative connotations among some, and this verbiage may act as a turn-off to front-line operators. While this concept comes from manufacturing, it can be applied to any system that services customers.
Who should be there?
Front-line operators are the most important representatives. Not only do they know the process better than anyone by living it day-in and day-out, but it will be crucial to eventual buy-in to have this point of view. Choose employees who are known for doing their jobs exceptionally well and open to change. Also include someone who knows the data systems well, as they can identify which aspects can be easily quantified with existing data.
Management presence emphasizes the importance of the initiative to the company, but make sure any leader joining has an open mind and is visibly engaged (put the phone away!). Including a different operator who is unfamiliar with this particular process can also provide a “fresh eyes” perspective.
What should you do?
The first step is to observe the operation in person. Walk through each step of the process as if you were the product or the customer and discuss as a group what you see. Draw out a process map so everyone is on the same page in regards to operational flow.
The next step is to collect data. Ensure everyone understands what the data means and how it will be used to identify issues. Example data could be transaction times, including noting if a delay occurred.
Throughout the observation, write down any observed inefficiencies, pain points, or delays.
What types of topics should be discussed?
1. What is most confusing to the customer?
Here at Integrated Insight, we always start with the customer perspective and understand the product through their eyes. Eliminating frustrations by changing the process or improving communication results in an improved customer experience.
2. What are the most common errors or delays?
This list can be used in a brainstorm session to ideate solutions both big and small.
3. What is most frustrating about the process?
Employees also get annoyed with an inefficient process. Identifying and reducing these frustrations can increase morale.
4. If you had $1M to make any changes, what would you do?
Too often we feel crunched by budgetary constraints, so we don’t even consider the major modifications that can truly transform a process. While the proposed change may appear to be financially unfeasible, the return on investment may determine it’s a viable option. Use the data collected previously to help analyze return.
5. What operational changes have happened across the past several years?
The operation has probably altered due to changes in technology, leadership, regulations, etc. Discuss how these adjustments have impacted operational efficiency and be sure to record the dates the changes occurred.
What happens after?
Use historical data to measure change, understand trends and see how productivity has improved over time. Compare this with the list of operational changes and dates.
Take the list of common errors and delays, and brainstorm different solutions. Analyze the transaction time data recorded during the efficiency summit to determine the impact of each solution and quantify the potential value if this issue was reduced or eliminated.
Create an action plan and report out on progress. Include multiple organizational levels on the communication to maintain visibility, emphasize importance, and ensure accountability.
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