Expanding lean efforts beyond the production floor can benefit your company and your customers.
BY JOHN BERGER
John Berger, corporate vice president of quality and process improvement for Fiserv Output Solutions.
As any good business person knows, there is always room for improvement. Five years ago, Fiserv Output Solutions in Shoreview started a process improvement program to make continuous improvement an integral part of our culture.
While our initial lean focus was in the plant, we didn't stop where shop floor meets office cubicles. Instead, we sought to ingrain GreenLeanSM principles and projects throughout the business.
We personalize and mail millions of custom secure and non-secure debit and gift cards annually. Since we don't get paid until a new program goes live, we wanted to shorten the time it took to implement program orders in our system. Many departments are involved in our order
process so the challenge was coordination.
First, we created a Value Stream Map of the entire process from start to finish. Having a picture of our current process in its entirety gave employees - often for the first time - a comprehensive overview of all the steps involved in a new order. This allowed us to eliminate
waste and brainstorm improvement ideas in a future Value Stream Map.
Value Stream Mapping on the production floor often leads to physical work cells - areas that house all of the parts and equipment necessary for a particular project. In the office, we were able to implement a virtual work cell for employees working with a particular customer.
These employees now share a common e-mail address and voice-mail box, in addition to their own, to expedite answering the customer's questions and to stay up to date on any changes requested by the customer after an order form is sent.
The Value Stream Map also revealed that our sales department's role for this customer was minimal, so we removed them from the process, freeing them to focus on other customers. Finally, we partnered with our customer, training its staff to fill out the order forms more
accurately and completely, while promising a faster turnaround in return.
Today, we implement orders from this customer 50 percent faster and have drastically reduced rework. Employees have clear, current information that they can trust, and steps move in a more organized fashion, making the office a less stressful environment. We are now
duplicating our virtual work cell across the office - and can't wait to see the results.
If you're using lean only on the production floor, I would encourage you to try a project or two in the office. Because whether you're moving products or information, there's always room for improvement.
John Berger is corporate vice president of quality and process improvement for Fiserv Output Solutions.