Software and process reviews enable continuous improvement

Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series on the value of software and process reviews. Companies completing a software and process review (SPR) gain closer adherence to documented procedures and instructions as well as ensured accuracy and integrity of the database data structure and reporting elements.

03/10/2004


Companies completing a software and process review (SPR) gain closer adherence to documented procedures and instructions as well as ensured accuracy and integrity of the database data structure and reporting elements. Software users and business process owners become more comfortable with and more active in the use of the software and new procedures, helping to ensure that productivity gains are maintained.

Channeling results into productivity

The expected tangible results of an SPR include:

  • Generation of useful reports

  • Better trained personnel

  • Availability of valid information for better management decisions

  • A higher level of sustained productivity.

    • To sustain these results and channel them into productivity, it is critical that SPR findings and recommendations are reported to senior management as well as communicated throughout the organization. It is what the organization does with the analysis and review that demonstrates the real value of an SPR. Plants that use the analysis to implement further changes and improvements, more measurements of the few variables or parameters that provide the most quantifiable feedback on trends, and better management decisions realize this value.

      A company should make a firm decision about which few variables or parameters, out of the hundreds that they measure, to track in order to verify that trends are moving in the desired direction. For example, if scrap rate, unplanned downtime, or inventory levels are high, a plant should establish metrics to begin controlling those numbers. A word to the wise though: unless handled carefully, positive trends in one area of the company can generate negative trends elsewhere. If spare parts inventories are reduced, then unplanned downtime can increase dramatically, if not managed well. An out-of-stock situation can bring a manufacturing company to its knees in lost production.

      Generally, improvements occur through incremental steps. However, trends usually show marginal results unless senior management reinforces their value and contribution to the company's bottom line. Temporary and short-lived changes are easy targets; reaching and sustaining high-performance standards become the challenge.

      Company performance improvement goals must be tied to individual performance objectives to ensure the likelihood of success. Simply put, the company's financial, safety, and performance goals should be conveyed to every individual at the operational level of the organization. A mechanic must believe that ensuring machines run at optimal performance levels not only directly supports production, but also contributes to the overall health and performance of the company.

      SPR methodology

      The scope of an SPR can vary from analyzing maintenance resource utilization, to the effectiveness of stores management, to user satisfaction and maintenance system buy-in. It is important for you to determine this scope, identify the areas on which to focus, and plan the availability of staff and other resources.

      Having gained knowledge of the plant and familiarity with its business processes, the consultants work with the rest of the plant's team members to structure a unique SPR methodology. The following typical 4-step SPR methodology can provide immediate benefits and ongoing direction to the plant:

      1. Plant site team preparation — During presite activities, the consultants capture information specific to the focus and goals of the SPR, then distribute this information among the SPR team members to ensure that the audit moves efficiently and achieves the desired goals in the expected time. A checklist compiled prior to the necessary interviews can enlist team members to coordinate their resources and schedules, and to prepare for the audit by collecting existing metrics, operational analyses, and management reports. The consultants review the baseline performance data, which are critical to measuring the performance of operations and identifying opportunities for improvement, which are then shared with the company team. If the baseline performance data were not collected during the initial implementation, this then becomes one of the goals of the initial SPR.

      2. Interviews — Consultants conduct interviews to: