I was recently given an article by Vincent Bozzone at Delta Dynamics, Inc. (you can download the PDF version here) that has me rethinking how we manage our processes around here. According to the article, the two main theories in workflow and process management are Lean Manufacturing and Theory of Constraints (TOC).
Lean manufacturing is all about reducing inventory in mass production, by using on-time delivery of raw materials and supplies. TOC is about eliminating constraints that bottleneck the workflow in a job shop environment — someone doesn’t show up for work, or a customer changes some specs, and you’ve got a bottleneck.
But what do you do if you’re a custom job shop? Unless you’re the bottleneck, there’s really not much you can do to be lean or focus on TOC.
Bozzone says that by concentrating on the Theory of Delays (TOD), custom job shops can improve performance by cutting lead time. That by eliminating delays in the total business process will shorten the amount of time it takes to get paid. Shorter lead times lead to increased sales, reduced costs, and increase your overall capacity.
For printers, especially custom printers (and aren’t we all these days?), Theory of Delays sounds like something we’ve been complaining about for years. But Bozzone is telling us how we can focus on even one or two areas to improve performance. It all depends on how we look at our shop, as a manufacturer or a service company:
Recognizing this difference is very important because if you approach the challenge of improving the performance and profitability of a job shop with the idea of it being a manufacturing company, you will naturally look for ways to improve how it produces product. On the other hand, if you approach it recognizing it as a service company, you will look for ways to improve how it satisfies market and customer demand.
So what are some common delays found in most print shops? Quoting is usually a problem for shops, because the owner usually has to okay the quotes, but is busy racing around trying to get the day’s projects done. One solution might be to give your staff permission to approve their own quotes, as long as they’re under a certain dollar amount — say $500 — which will lighten the approval load for the owner, and shorten the quote time for the customer.
Maybe there is a delay on the floor because work that was completed at one stage of the operation is still sitting at the station, waiting to be picked up by the next operator. Examine your process, and see if there is another way to resolve this delay. Have the first person deliver the stock to the next station. Post a job board in a public area, and make everyone mark off when they’re finished. Ring a big bell. Just do something to let the next person in the operation know it’s their turn.
By focusing on the areas that cause you delays in the entire business process and not just on the manufacturing process or supply inventory, you can find other ways to shorten the time from “quote to cash,” and come up with new ways to increase revenue and capacity, but without spending longer hours in the office.