Management of the Process Productivity


Management of the Process Productivity

A process can be defined as a set of horizontal sequence of interrelated or interacting activities, which transforms inputs (needs) into outputs (results) for meeting the needs of customers or stakeholders. Inputs and intended outputs of a process can be tangible (such as equipment, materials or components) or intangible (such as energy or information). Outputs can also be unintended, such as waste or pollution.  The process needs a resource that provides the needed energy to the process for the transformation from the input to output to occur. Each process has customers and other interested parties (who may be either internal or external to the organization), with needs and expectations about the process, who define the required outputs of the process.

A process is an interacting combination at any level of complexity, of people, materials, tools, machines, automation, software facilities, and procedures designed to work together for the common purpose of producing product of that quality which is needed by the customer. The process is central to the production system in the organization (Fig 1). The process instills quality in the product.

Fig 1 Process of a production system

The objectives of a process are normally (i) low cost operation, (ii) high performance, (iii) consistent product quality, (iv) high productivity level, (v) high yield, and (vi) product customization.

An organization to function has several processes. The organization can reach its goals and objectives in an efficient and effective manner only if all the processes operate at a high level of productivity.

Productivity is the quality or state of being productive. It is the measure of how specified resources are managed to accomplish timely objectives stated in terms of quality and quantity. It indicates how well the resources such as materials, labour, capital and energy etc. are used.

Productivity is defined as the ratio of output to input. An increase in productivity means an increase in output that is proportionally greater than increase in input.

Productivity is the quantitative relationship between what the process produces and what it spends to produce. Productivity is nothing but reduction in wastage of resources like men, material, machine, time, space, capital etc. Productivity denotes relationship between output and one or all associated inputs. In the words of Peter Drucker productivity means a balance between all factors of production which provide the maximum output with the smallest effort.

The productivity of a certain set of resources (input) is therefore the amount of goods or services (output) which is produced by them. Land and building materials, machines, manpower (labour), technology etc. are the resources at the disposal of the organization. Hence higher (improved) productivity means that more is produced with the same expenditure of resource i.e. at the same cost in terms of land, materials, machine, time or labour, alternatively, it means same amount is produced at less cost in terms of land, materials, machine time or labour that is utilized.

There are several factors which affect the productivity of the processes and hence the performance of the organization. Some factors have positive effect on the productivity of the processes while some other factors have negative influence on the productivity. Some of these factors can be controlled while the others cannot be controlled. Important factors affecting the productivity are enumerated below.

Capital investment – Capital investments in the technology, equipment, and facilities influences the productivity of the process. Any savings on these process elements can have a big negative effect on the process productivity.

Input materials – Quality of the input material has a big influence on the process productivity. Some input materials can have lower per unit weight cost, but they have large adverse impact on the productivity of the process because of their quality being inferior to the needed quality for the process.

Process capacity – The capacity of the process influences its productivity. With large capacity, the process productivity improves because of the economies of scale.

Process technology – The selected technology for the process plays a very important role in determining the productivity of the process. For several processes alternative technologies are available for producing the same product. These different technologies normally have different level of the productivity. In some cases the selected technology may be same but the speed of the process has its influence on the productivity. As an example, a rolling mill with lower maximum speed of rolling cannot have the same productivity which the rolling mill having higher maximum speed of rolling has.

Process control – for smooth functioning of the process, adequate process control activities are needed. Under process control, two types of variable exist. They are manipulated variables which can be adjusted and the controlled variables which are affected by the adjustments. Process control is an important function of the process management. Through process control it is ensured that the process activities are under control and are giving the desired results with respect to the product quality at the intended level of productivity.

Process automation – Process automation is used for linking of the process with remote control systems frequently through information technology. Process automation is equipped with remote contact or non-contact sensors and standardized interfaces, and, in some cases, eliminates totally the human interferences. This helps in eliminating the human errors during the operation of the process. Manually operated process cannot compete with the automated process with regards to process productivity. Process automation impacts in a big way the process productivity. Highly productive process needs higher level of reliable automation for controlling it. Automation reduces the manual inputs to the process only to the level of monitoring the process.

Workforce – Knowledge, experience and behaviour of the workforce are the major factors which aids in maintaining the process productivity. For maximizing of the productivity of the process, both the knowledge and the experience of the workforce are necessary since these qualities improve the skills of the workforce and hence have vital influence on the process productivity. The skills of the workforce can be enhanced by training and education. Training and education also helps in moulding the behaviour of the workforce.

Workplace environment – Workplace environment greatly influences the process productivity. A workplace environment where worker can work without any tension, which is safe to work, and which is neat and tidy has a big positive impact on the productivity of the process.

Work methods – Working methods adopted by the workforce affects the process as it progresses and hence influences the productivity of the process. Hence it is very important that the workforce is properly trained in the correct work methods so that the productivity of the process is not affected.

System and procedures – Working with system and procedures has a positive effect on the process productivity. Systematic working means that there are lesser human errors as the process progresses. Procedures are the important components of the process. Following of the procedures while the process is being executed means that the process is progressing as intended. Hence both the system and procedures play an important role in improving the productivity of the process. Workforce needs to be trained well in these procedures.

Quality of the product – Product quality has a big influence on the process productivity. Higher requirement for the quality of the product results into higher diversion of the products which are lacking the required quality. Also higher quality product needs in process inspection which can take the form of (i) first-piece inspection, (ii) operator inspection, (iii) last-piece inspection, or (iv) stage inspection. In other words it means that the process productivity goes down as the quality of the product becomes more stringent.

Process discipline – Process discipline means the continuance maintenance of the process parameters at the desired levels. Process discipline does not allow the process to go off the track and in turn helps the process in achieving the desired level of productivity.

Process monitoring – Continuous monitoring of the process parameters is necessary for ensuring timely corrective and preventive actions for the process to remain on the track. Smooth running of the process is essential for the maintenance of the process productivity.

Equipment health – Process equipments are required to be maintained regularly so that they remain healthy. Equipments not healthy often break down thus affecting their availability for the process to continue. Processing time once lost cannot be made-up subsequently. Thus health of the equipment is an important factor for the maintenance of the process productivity.

Tools and implements – A process needs a set of tools and implements. Selection of proper tools and implements along with their proper health have influence on the process productivity.

Workplace discipline – Workplace discipline is the observation without any deviations the technical instructions, procedures, standards, guidelines, and practices of the technological processes which the employees are operating at their workplaces. It is one of the factors which determine the behaviour of the workforce towards the process. If the workplace discipline is not maintained then it has a negative influence on the process productivity.

Technological discipline – Each process has its own set of the instructions, procedures, standards, and guidelines for its smooth functioning. This set of instructions, procedures, standards, and guidelines are made with the help of knowledge and experience gained over a period of time and following basic laws and practices established either with the help of scientific principles or by analysing vast data collected over a period of time. The basic laws and practices are usually time tested and are generally accepted by all. The violation of technological discipline affects the process productivity adversely.

Safety aspects – Safety has a big influence on the process productivity. Safety aspects include equipment safety, workplace safety, use of safety implements by the workforce, safety training of the workforce, and the attitude of the organizational management towards safety.

Process productivity is very important for the organization since increase in the level of the productivity results in higher production which has direct impact on the organizational performance. It reduces cost per unit and hence the profitability of the organization. It enables the organizational management to provide improved facilities to the workforce. Higher productivity also eliminates wastes in all forms and thus helps in the preservation of the environment. There are several productivity improvement techniques which can be applied effectively in the organization. Most of these techniques were developed in Japan after World War II and hence have Japanese names.These techniques are given below in brief.

Jidoka – Jidoka is a Toyota concept aimed at describing the man-machine interface such that people remain free to exercise judgment while machines serve their purpose. The jidoka system shows faith in the worker as a thinker and allows all workers the right to stop the line on which they are working. Jidoka is often referred to as ‘automation with a human mind’. The jidoka way of working consists of three principles namely (i) not to make defects, (ii) not to pass on defects, and (iii) not to accept defects.

Heijunka – Heijunka focuses on achieving consistent levels of production. It is defined as ‘distributing the production of different [body types] evenly over the course of a day’. It incorporates the principles of line balancing by attempting to equate workloads, leveling demand out by creating an inventory buffer and replenishing that buffer. It believes in providing even work load for all the workforce. Heijunka has the capability of reducing lead times by minimizing time losses due to frequent process changeovers.

Kaizen – Kaizen (Continuous improvement) is a management supported employee driven process where, employees make a great number of continuous improvement efforts.

Five Ss of housekeeping – It is a structured approach to achieve clean and orderly work place by fixing place for everything. Five Ss is an abbreviation for the Japanese words (i) Seiri, (ii) Seiton, (iii) Seiso, (iv) Seiketsu, and (v) Shitsuke. Seiri is getting rid of unnecessary items. Seiton consists of arranging items (materials, tools, gauges) systematically for ease in their retrievability. Seiso means keeping of the work place scrupulously clean. Seiketsu is scheduling of regular cleaning and clearing out operations. And Shitsuke is making the entire above task to meet agreed standards at agreed intervals.

Muda elimination – Muda means waste. Muda elimination means an on-going and systematic reduction or elimination of waste. There are seven kinds of major waste. These are (i) overproduction Muda, (ii) stock Muda, (iii) transport Muda, (iv) defects Muda, (v) delay Muda, (vi) motion Muda, and (vii) over processing Muda. It helps to eliminate redundant processes or parts of processes, delete non-value added activities, simplify motions, minimize fatigue, and reduce wait time, etc.

Poka-Yoke – It is controlling and comprehensive method of error proofing. It is a work process to eliminate inadvertent errors to ensure quality products and services. It helps in defect prevention and defect detection.

SMED – Single minute exchange of die (SMED) is a technique of performing a set up operation in lesser amount of time. It affects a machinery setup for change over from one to another in minimum period of time. It helps in reduced work-in-progress, better average daily production, increased capacity and faster delivery to customers.

Total productive maintenance (TPM) – TPM is keeping machines in good working condition through systematic maintenance of equipment so that they fail less frequently and production process continues without interruption.

Just-In-Time (JIT) – JIT is a management technique aimed at eliminating waste from every aspect of the manufacturing and its related activities. The term JIT refers to producing only what is needed, when it is needed and in needed quantity. The aim of JIT in the production shop is to reduce lead times, minimize inventory, reduce the defect rate to zero and accomplish these at the minimum cost. There are three essential ingredients to effective production excellence through JIT. These are (i) JIT production techniques which aims to promote a rapid response to customer demand while minimizing the inventory, (ii) a total quality culture to pursue excellence both in the product and in the every area of the activity, including customer service, purchasing, marketing, accounting, maintenance, and design etc., and (iii) employee involvement in the development of the organization through its culture and its production and other processes.

Kanban – Kanban is a manual production scheduling technique controlled by a process or machine operator. Kanban means card in Japanese, which is attached to given number of parts or products in the production line instructing the delivery of given quantity. The Kanban card after all parts/products have been used up is returned by the operator to its origin. Production is controlled through demand originating from external customer.

Process oriented management (POM) – Traditional management focuses mainly on results and individuals on their ultimate achievement. Kaizen management gives emphasis on process for achieving the results. Managers in POM are judged by people centered skills as time management, education and training, inter-team participation, communication and morale boosting. 

Visual management – Visual management is the method of providing, in a clearly visible manner, to both the workforce and management, information on the current status including target of the various operations performed as well as various work pieces found at the work place.

Work standards – Work standards represent the best way of doing a job and it consists of set of documented policies, rules, directives and procedures established by the management for all major operations to enable workforce to perform the jobs without errors and to enable management to minimize variations in output, quality, work-in-progress and cost. Three elements of standardized work are (i) to take time, (ii) work sequence, and (iii) standard work-in-progress. The key steps in implementing work standards are (i) the key issues in the current process, (ii) map the process, (iii) improve the process, (iv) implement the process, and (v) sustain the process.

PDCA/SDCA cycle – PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle is an endless improvement cycle which demands that workforce team ‘plans’ (establish a target for improvement through action plan), ‘does’ (implement the plan), ‘checks’ (monitor and evaluate effects, and ‘acts’ (standardizes new procedures or set goals for further improvement). Since every process is initially unstable, it is required to be stabilized using SDCA (standardize-do-check-act) cycle. Thus, a SDCA cycle is to precede every PDCA cycle to consolidate gains into current process before raising the standard threshold.

Statistical process control (SPC) – SPC is the application of statistical techniques to control a process and eliminate process variations due to assignable causes. SPC needs workforce to do periodical sampling of the quality of the output, to enter data into control charts, to analyze the trend, and to decide when to shut down the process and when to make adjustments / corrections to the process to prevent defects.

Suggestion systems – Suggestion systems are the fundamental to the Kaizen philosophy. It is the process owned by employees through designed to benefit the company, inviting employees to suggest / implement any idea, large or small, novel or mundane concerning any aspect of the organization life.