It goes without saying that every organization looks to improve the way that it’s being run. It’s a crucial part of the drive towards operational excellence.
This means that there is a great deal of attention being paid to the way that processes within businesses are being deployed and how they can be modified to deliver better results. The resulting drive to process improvement has generated a whole new way of looking at systems.
Any organization embarking on changes to its operational efficiency will want to look closely at any alterations to related processes and assess how such changes will have an impact – especially on the bottom line.
What is process improvement?
All of this has generated a new philosophy of process improvement which looks closely at ways in which existing processes can be improved, leading either to greater efficiencies or better outcomes.
There are a number of different methods to look at how processes can be improved: Six Sigma, value stream mapping, process mapping, and total quality management, to name a few.
All of these have advantages and limitations, but there’s one factor in common. Companies have had to rely on a lot of guesswork. Plans could be drawn up by putting a number of assumptions into a spreadsheet and then calculating results for ‘what-if’ scenarios. It gave a crude approximation but a lot of it was based on past behavior. This doesn’t offer accurate foresight of how things will actually play out in the real world, where predictions are all too often wide of the mark.
What companies need is a way of building on these static flow charts and examining situations that are closer to the ever changing dynamics in life. Imagine a world where businesses can plan according to what actually happens, not what a spreadsheet says should happen. Many models base predictions on what has happened previously, but within a fast-paced and ever-changing business environment this is no longer the most efficient way to proceed. It leaves far too much room for error when the target is one of process excellence.
The benefits of simulation
Through simulation, process improvement software will take all this planning one step further. By simulating events, a company can take into account factors like missed deliveries – especially relevant at the moment with reports of long delays at ports around the world – or staff illnesses – again very relevant during the pandemic. It can go further: it can take into account failure rates of components, it can stress test for unusual events: what problems would extreme weather patterns bring to production, for example? Or what happens when a supplier goes bust? All of these actions could lead to possible disruptions and bottlenecks in the system that would require a resolution, so why not prepare for them?
By using simulation, organizations are able to spot these potential bottlenecks before they happen and work out preemptively what they need to change to prevent them. Companies would be able work through a variety of scenarios, perhaps based on varying staffing levels or perhaps based on a different workflow, and ascertain which would be the best approach under any given circumstances.
Simulation can also be used with some of the process improvement methods discussed earlier. For example, it would fit in well with value stream mapping to look at how processes hang together.
Even with extensive use of simulation, there’s no need to throw out traditional methods. There will still be room for process maps, but the simulation software adds a new dimension to it, taking planning from beyond a jumble of figures to a more realistic and recognizably human view of the world. And in doing so, simulation provides the accelerator for process improvement.
Process improvement to process excellence
All companies operate in real life, not within the confines of a software grid. By simulating such changes, businesses will have a clearer idea of how their processes need to change to be improved.
After all, it’s one thing to go down the business transformation path, it’s another to go down the path accurately with a firm grip on the problems that could lie ahead – and, more importantly, how to deal with them.
There’s going to be no slowing down on the road to process excellence. Any company that wants to ensure that its money is well spent to stay competitive will need to look beyond traditional modeling. Incorporating simulation provides users with a way to make accurate decisions about the future, and this will inform and enhance all process improvement. In doing so, your organization will get significantly closer to the coveted excellence across its processes.