In no particular order:
- What are the existing process gaps in the overall strategy and have they been translated into business objectives?
We might see obvious gaps, but have yet to translate those into objectives. By providing structure around them and doing a cost benefit analysis we might find that they are obtainable in various bite size chunks.
- Realistically how much are we double handling?
Whether or not we have a warehouse management system there are plenty of places where double handling occurs. Identify these areas and if possible automate the systems. Many operations can touch an order in excess of 5 times.
- Identifying the processes that have no added value
Doing an audit of processes can be a tricky business. For example returns for incorrectly supplied product. Doing an honest audit of the actuals might just initiate a process improvement project. I’ve personally spoke to warehouse managers that simply say “it’s just one of those cost of doing business”. Well, can it be done better and cheaper?
- Is it time for a technology refresh?
Not every operation has budget scope for a complete technology refresh program, but are there particular areas where this can be achieved without overhauling the total solution. For example providing flexibility for returns via an online portal cutting down operator RA# allocation downtime.
- Establish key performance indicators (KPI’s)
Might sound obvious, but have you thought through the KPI’s of your business? These form the basis for process control improvements. Effective reporting aggregates data to powerful KPI’s. Exception reporting works better if we are able to put it into context.
- Is our transport strategy still relevant?
This is a topic that means different things to each business, but when was the last time we evaluated our transport requirements and infrastructure?
- Supplier management
Have we effectively categorised our suppliers? Do we have a benchmark for good and poor performing suppliers? Can we negotiate based on performance? Can we sell information back to them? Suppliers will always try and take the high ground if given the opportunity. Time to reverse the perspective.
- Our staff
- Can we provide our staff with further assistance to manage their positions more effectively? Is there some additional training or certification? Is there a facility for them to provide honest feedback on the business? As business leaders do we translate the businesses message to the rest of the organisation? We might be so caught up in being entrepreneurial that we’ve lost touch with the heartbeat of the business?
Who knows what our people are (honestly) saying about us unless we give them an opportunity.
- Our Customers
Of course then there’s the customers. We might not know when customers have simply stopped ordering or doing business with us until it’s too late. I’ve seen many a business look flabbergasted that customers would do this without just cause. We might be afraid to receive criticism, but how many times have we thought “If only they would have told me”.