In many companies, the philosophy is, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Yet in any aspect of business (as well as life), small improvements in strategies, processes, and everyday tasks can lead to big – even huge – results as they compound week after week, month after month, and year after year.
At QuickBox, we’ve found that these small improvements can lead to such significant improvements for our clients that we’ve created a position focused on Kaizen (the Japanese word for continuous improvement). Nathan Belcher is the VP of Continuous Improvement, and his primary job is to facilitate the Kaizen approach to increase efficiencies and reduce errors in every aspect of the business.
Waste is sadly found everywhere – in business, at home, and in life in general. The goal of the Kaizen approach is to eliminate that waste and create a process that supports all the people involved, so our lives are free from struggle and our business partners receive exactly what they need to succeed, including quality, on-time delivery and a good return on investment.
While the philosophy is most well-known as Lean, as implemented by Toyota, no matter what industry you’re in, reducing waste can make you and your company more efficient, which can make you more profitable.
Monthly Kaizen Events
Every month, the QuickBox team identifies a process to improve. We gather eight to 10 people involved in the process at every level and begin by mapping how the current process works (or finding out if a defined process even exists).
This isn’t just a mental exercise. Real-world observations help identify any waste in the process. Waste is defined as “anything that doesn’t transform the product or service into what the customer wants or doesn’t create value for your customer.”
The Lean framework identifies eight wastes:
1. Overproduction: When you make more than is needed or it’s made sooner than needed.
2. Inventory: It takes up space and needs to be managed, found, or moved, and it can lock up needed cash.
3. Motion: Walking, reaching, lifting, opening, etc. are all human motions, and all that movement can create waste when it’s not streamlined.
4. Transportation: This looks at the movement of inventory, packaging, and more (i.e., stuff in general) instead of just people.
5. Extra Processing: Added steps and effort to get things done right.
6. Defects: A faulty product or service that needs to be reworked, recreated, or redone to be fixed.
7. Waiting (or Downtime): If your team or customers are just sitting around because the product isn’t ready, this is a big waste of time.
8. Non-Utilized Talent: If you aren’t able to take advantage of your team’s or customers’ brain power and creativity, that can be one of the biggest wastes of all.
The goal is to reduce or even eliminate as many forms of waste as possible to deliver a greater service for you and your customers.
That starts with observations from the entire team, as it’s important to see the waste in the first place. This is followed by a brainstorming session when we discuss the future vision and how to get there. We then break up into smaller groups and come back to share ideas and solutions and pick the best ideas.
It doesn’t stop there, though. The next step is called “try storming.” This is when we use a faux production solution to help reach the desired future state and have the entire team try it out to see if it results in measurable improvements.
The entire team is engaged in the process, so we not only have buy-in from the executive team but from everyone involved. This also allows the team to ensure no necessary steps are dropped.
For example, if the warehouse team doesn’t know that an account manager relies on a process to provide data to her client, they may not know how important that process is. If that necessary step is dropped, it creates waste rather than eliminates it. That’s why it’s vital for the entire team to join in and fully buy in.
Because these Kaizen events take place every month, the team has already seen dramatic improvements (and cost savings) for clients in terms of:
- Outbound shipping
- Vendor relations
- And more
For example, we found that returns were languishing as a low priority. After a single Kaizen event, the returns process was completely revamped, and now it takes mere days to process each return.
While “if it ain’t broke” may be good enough for other companies, at QuickBox, we believe there are always ways to continuously improve our client solutions to create greater processes, strategies, transparency, and efficiencies that enhance our partnerships.
Are you interested in continuously improving your logistics and fulfillment? Learn more about how QuickBox can help your growing business thrive while saving you time, money, and resources. Contact us today.