Topic: Streamlining Internal Processes
I know it is taking too long for packaging projects to work their way through my company to our suppliers, but I do not have the manpower or the time to re-engineer the process. Where can I look to streamline my process without making a major project of it?

I have worked with many consumer product companies. In virtually every case the process used for the development of packaging graphics had evolved over a number of years. This evolution of processes means that new steps have been added as new checks and balances are required. These steps, while seemingly necessary, have incrementally added to the overhead of the process.

Like taxes, steps once implemented are seldom removed. This "evolution process" is typically the root cause of an encumbered graphic development process. Couple that with corporate downsizing meaning everyone now is doing the work of two or more and you see how this "evolved process" can drag a company down.

Short of re-engineering the entire process a company can identify "low-hanging fruit" to help the process function a little more efficiently.

STEP 1: Step back from the process and look at it as an assembly line production. Map out all the major stations on the assembly line and identify what happens at each step along the way. This "process map" will be a revelation since most people involved in the process do not realize all the steps that take place beyond their scope. For example, functions performed in the legal, marketing, or purchasing departments are rarely understood by those in other departments.

STEP 2: Identify which stations cause the assembly line to STOP. Reasons for bottlenecks may include waiting for a key person who is out of the office, or tracking down incomplete information.

STEP 3: Brainstorm ideas for preventing bottlenecks. For example, assign a backup person to replace those who are out of the office and introduce this "alternative person" to the appropriate people.

STEP 4: Identify stations that do not bring value to the final product. Perform these steps "off-line", or eliminate them, to shorten the assembly line by a station.

Through these four steps companies can "tweak" their processes and eliminate or modify 20% to 40% of the steps in their process while gaining cycle-time reductions of 10% to 15%. But remember, this fix is simply another "evolution" and is a Band-Aid to root problems. By implementing "revolutionary" change in the re-engineering process, you can yield as much as 60% cycle-time reductions and cost reductions of 30% or more.
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