An effective operation enables an organization to achieve its intended objectives. However, to sustain a long-term competitive advantage, adoption of effective production methods is the only way of maintaining a high level of productivity which is achieved through optimizing processes and checking costs. The goal of improving the operational processes in an organization is to maintain a lead amongst other organizations in provision of similar products or services. Through operation improvement programs, a number of activities such as educating employees on new concepts and on use of the new methods are generated.
Traditionally, organizations focused on mass production where the products were stored in warehouses and then supplied according to demand by the retailers (Pull production). These traditional production methods however proved too expensive to the organization as they required the firm to pay storage costs and also to advertise its production for it to sell. All these activities however required financial commitments thereby making the whole process quite expensive. Such challenges led to efforts by the firms to improve on performance during the industrial era. From 1950’s, competition between companies had indeed increased as the markets went global. This increased competition called for a greater need for improved methods necessary to sustain competitiveness.
Examples of such methods included total preventive maintenance (TPM), total quality management (TQM), Kaizen, Benchmarking and business process re- engineering (BPO) (Nord et al., 1997). These methods led to improvement of operations by elimination of processes that did not add value to the products though they contributed in adding unnecessary costs. The companies shifted from the traditional mass production to “lean production” where they were guided by the product demand to produce. These new operations improvement concepts were initially started in Europe and later on exported to Japan. However, these methods led to a new thinking in Japan that led to their further development.
By then, European companies had adopted and improved them to counter competition from Japanese firms. Surprisingly, all these methods had one similar fundamental objective which was to improve on firm’s operations. However, their only major difference was explained by the means set out to accomplish their scope.
As one of the business process improvement method, it can be referred to as the process of comparing one business process to the industry best practices (Womack et al., 1996). In most cases, the parameters usually measured are cost, time and quality. The management selects the best firms in the industry which have similar processes and carries out a comparison. In such a way, they understand how well targets are achieved and the processes that lead to the attainments of such targets. This comparability feature enable the management to identify the right processes put in place by the successful firms and in turn practices the same to their firms in a bid to achieve their set goals and also remain competitive in the market.
Business process re-engineering
It refers to strategic rethinking and redesign to the organization’s existing resources. It involves re-designing the way work is done to archive organization’s mission and reduce operational costs. It largely focuses on the organization business processes, procedures and steps that guide on how the resources are used in generation of products or services. Reengineering analyzes and identifies the business main processes with a view of achieving dramatic improvements in critical performance measures for instance, speed of accomplishing a task, cost and quality (Rahman, 1998).
Business processes are usually fragmented in to sub -processes that results in to some specific benefits. As such, re-engineering is concerned with redesigning the process as a whole in order to achieve the maximum benefits. By renewing the business processes, the company renews its competitiveness to curb foreign competition. BPR improved on Just-in-Time (JIT) and Total Quality Management (TQM) to improve the organizational processes. On it negative side, reengineering, though it helped the business to achieve it targets and cut costs, earned a bad reputation by resulting to massive lay offs.
Kaizen as a process impacts on labor force at the work place by eliminating overworking and educating workers on how to apply scientific methods and also on how to identify and eliminate wasteful processes. As such, this process brings about a humanized approach at the work place and increases productivity. Nurturing human resource encourages participation in kaizen activities. Kaizen leads to total quality management when practiced on cross-departmental scale and sets free human efforts by improving productivity through use of machines and computing power. Rather than the infamous command and control of 20th century, Kaizen includes making changes and monitoring results after which the necessary adjustments are carried out.
Total Quality Management
As an operations improvement approach, TQM helps the organizations to improve their internal processes hence customer satisfaction. This process when properly applied can lead to decreased cost, better performance and customer satisfaction.
Applicability of operation improvement methods on individual’s professional life
Generally, as it has been learnt from the various operations improvement methods, reduction in product or service cost can be achieved through identification and elimination of less importance processes. This similar idea can be applied on individual’s professional life. An individual can identify the less important activities which tend to make him inefficient in his professional work and avoid them to achieve efficiency.
In summary, it can be concluded that application of business improvement techniques helps in achieving business goal through elimination of unwanted processes which tend to increase unnecessary cost to the product or service. Therefore, other than production process, these operation improvement methods can still be applied in other areas to bring about sanity and efficiency.
Nord, C., Patterson, B. & Johansson, B. (1997). TPM-Total production maintenance. Management Journal, 5 (2), 23-28.
Rahman, S. (1998). Theory of constraints: A review of philosophy and its applications. International journal of operations and production management, 18 (4), 336-355.
Womack, J., Jone, D. & Roos, D. (1996). Lean thinking: banish waste and create wealth in your corporation. London: Simon & Schuster.