ONE GOOD IDEA
Effective Process Management
by Mikel Janitz
Let’s say you have a generic product development, first article inspection or supplier development process. How would you consistently follow it and keep appropriate records each time someone performed it from start to finish? How would you manage to follow the procedure and save all records in a logical manner? One way is to create a template known as a file folder structure.
Why use a file folder structure? Because uniformity of process performance demonstrates clarity of thought and a sound structure, and it provides a clear path for others to follow. Standardization of records from process to process not only makes the process easier to document; it also allows the process manager, known as the doer, to work more efficiently and progress logically through the entire process.
Step one: Pick an established process to turn into a template. The template is equivalent to a file folder structure consisting of folders, subfolders and forms (see Figure 1). The file folder structure is designed to mimic the established process step by step and is similar to a flowchart.
Step two: Now that you’ve picked your process, decide whether it can be broken down into phases. The process in Figure 1 is divided into four major phases, but that doesn’t mean your process must also have four phases. There’s no incorrect number of phases you can choose; just make sure it’s logical.
Step three: Next, decide whether the phase can be broken down into smaller pieces or steps. Phase one of the process in Figure 1 is split into four steps. Each step represents an activity in the established process.
The number of steps you settle on will depend on the complexity of your process and the degree of simplicity you desire. I like to divide steps by area of responsibility and task, but it differs from process to process. My rule of thumb is to follow the process’s flowchart.
Step four: Determine whether each step can be broken down into smaller activities. In Figure 1, step one consists of five activities. Each activity is represented by a form. Form one will become part of the record for the process once the activity is completed. The same is true for forms two through five.
If your process requires more activities/records, create more forms for them. If it doesn’t, then move on to step two. Not all activities require a form, so don’t overdo it here. You don’t want to perform nonvalue added tasks.
After phase one is completed, move on to phase two, but remember, not all phases are equal. Some phases may not require forms, some forms may be shared by two or more activities, and some phases may have many steps while others have just a few. The key is to make the file folder structure similar to the established process flow so it’s easy for others to follow.
Step five: Review the template for the process you selected and ask, “Does it match the process?” If it does, your template is complete. If not, you need to make the appropriate changes.
Step six: Once you complete the file folder structure for the process, save it as a template. It can now be used each time the process is set in motion.
Every time someone attempts to carry out the process, he or she will copy the template into a new location. The location needs to be well known and recognized by the organization as a place to store management system records. The doer will then rename the template to match the project and eliminate the confusion of moving individual records from one project to another. The doer will then simply follow the template to create a final project with complete forms.
This idea can be used for any process. All you need to do is plan and map out the process. The time spent up front will pay off in the end with improved records, reduced process time, more efficient workflow and minimal wasted effort locating past information.
MIKEL E. JANITZ is R&D engineering department manager at Mercury Marine-Motor-Guide in Tulsa, OK. He earned a master’s degree in engineering management from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. Janitz is a Senior Member of ASQ and a certified quality systems lead auditor.