How to Identify Process Improvement Opportunities

Process improvement is essential for business in a climate of competition, market rivalry and a global economy. Identifying the processes in your business that can be improved -- by gaining an understanding how efficient and effective processes are -- will help your company grow and expand. The first step in correcting any problems is identifying the processes in your business that can be more productive and efficient.

Be familiar with the business processes. Process improvement starts with having a firm foundation of all parts of the company, understanding what makes the organization work. If you are coming from outside the company, interview as many employees as possible, on all levels; familiarize yourself with all departments and how they work together. Visually chart company processes.

Identify measurable processes in the core business functions. Gather data measurements of the business processes such as inventory levels, costs, sales, demand, labor hours, lead times and space allocations.

Look to where waste occurs in the process flow. Waste is defined as processes that do not add value to an organization. Process improvement drives away waste and increases value in an organization. Wastefulness in processes can take the form of redundancy of personnel or tasks, excessive quality testing, inventory overages or excessive labor. Identifying waste is a key step in determining where processes can be improved.

Construct root cause analysis. You can identify opportunities for process improvement when determining what prevents a process from adequately meeting its objectives. Some tools of root cause analysis include the 5 Whys, Fishbone Diagrams and Value Stream Mapping. These tools can help identify where a process breaks down.


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