Thursday, October 22, 2015

Automation Technologies Pty Ltd

Improving Quality Management Processes

Business Process Improvement of Quality Management Systems

Business Process Improvement (BPI) is all about devising better ways to improve your Business Process Management (BPM). It focuses on analysing business operations & tasks to see how they can be improved, changed or automated over time.

In this article, I'll cover some of the ideas outlined in the standard ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems. This document provides guidelines for managing Quality related business processes and outlines best-practices for achieving business efficiency.

I'll highlight key points which may be used to improve the Quality aspects of Business Process Management strategies used in your business.

The key take-away from this standard is:

"Quality Management is a Solution-Driven Methodology" 

But, what does this mean?

Business Process Improvement strategies applied to Quality Management should focus on the outcomes of your company rather than improvement of existing tasks. This is done by identifying problem areas, analysing the tasks involved and employing procedures that help support business.

A Quality BPM system should be:

  • Outcomes-based - eradicate unnecessary steps!
  • Sustainable - use continual evaluation of those responsible for certain processes
  • Intuitive - easily recognised and understood process tasks
  • Flexible - continuous re-examination & improvement of processes

Improving Quality Processes Should be a Continuous Cycle

If you're doing BPI right, you should already be constantly revising your processes to ensure your business is running seamlessly and at full capacity.

To improve a Quality Management Systems, you will still need to follow the usual BPM improvement cycle:

Identify > Improve > Implement > Refine > Monitor

A successful Quality Management System ensures both customer and business requirements are met.

The image below provides an example from ISO 9001 of how the process of ensuring quality is an ongoing cycle.

While this may seem complicated, the key performance indicators you need to look at when improving quality is:

  • Added value of process activities (Central activities cycle)
  • Product Quality & ability to meet customer requirements (Outputs from activities cycle)
  • Customer satisfaction (On the right)

These indicators tell us that, if we successfully improve our Quality Management, it will have a direct impact on overall business performance.

i.e. Improving the overall management of processes = improved business output

Your business outcomes are what you should be concerned with, not just the processes. This requires a more holistic approach that takes into account the main outputs outlined above and the activities that support these outcomes; Product Realisation, Measurement and Resource Management.

Michael E.Porter writes in his Harvard Business Review, ‘What Is Strategy?’
“Constant improvement in operational effectiveness is necessary to achieve superior profitability.” 
Managing and controlling the activities linked to operational performance is how we best achieve this superiority.

Implementing Improvements

When implementing new processes or process improvements, ISO 9001 recommends using the methodology known as Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA).

Plan Do Check Act

PDCA is ongoing, requiring good documentation and record-keeping for accountability.

Feedback captured from BPM systems post-implementation should indicate areas of weakness:

  • Bottlenecks of resources
  • Inefficient tasks
  • Losses in value
As I've already mentioned, the expected output from Quality Management System implementation is an improvement in productivity and output. It's therefore important to take note when no improvement is observed or measured, and follow this up when the PDCA cycle starts again.

What to Expect from QMS

What you are aiming for with a Quality (Process) Management System is:
  • Accelerated business growth
  • More productive due to timely workflows
  • Greater customer satisfaction
  • Greater agility and flexibility
  • Faster solutions
  • Greater ROI

With the increasing demand for fast, efficient, cost-effective business operations, Quality Management Systems provide a system for businesses to be competitive. The ISO 9001 standard isn't the complete solution for all business activities, but hopefully you can see why it is worth considering when you're next looking at ways to improve your business.

Key Points

1. Business Process Management is an ongoing cycle

3. Utilise Plan-Do-Check-Act

3. Focus on business outcomes and use these to measure performance
  • Added value of process activities
  • Product Quality
  • Customer satisfaction

Disclaimer Standards are regularly changed and updated. While this article is up to date at the time of writing, it may not describe the standard accurately in future. Be sure to refer to the most recent version of any standard when attempting to gauge compliance.

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Automation Technologies Pty Ltd

The Basics of Business Process Automation

Not sure what a Business Process is?

To understand why you would want to automate Business Processes, it is useful to understand what the components of a Business Process are. Business Processes are commonly considered as a collection of related tasks and activities, that either provide a product or service to a client, or contribute to the overall management of the company.

This methodology applies to most industries, including manufacturing, Health, IT and business services; each with unique business rules governing how tasks are performed or dictating expected outcomes. The methods of automating processes differs greatly between industries and may include the use of industrial robots for automating manufacturing tasks or using software (Enterprise Resource Planning ERP, Customer Relationship Management CRM, etc.) for automating information management.

The 3 Business Process Components

Regardless of the industry, a clearly defined Business process will have three main components:

  1. Inputs - Requests, Triggers, Business Requirements
  2. Structured and sequenced Tasks, Business Activities or Sub-Business Processes
  3. Output - a product, service or business goal

Business Process Workflow Map

The workflow of structured tasks & business activities that produce an output will either consist of manual tasks, requiring a person to do the work, or tasks which can be automated and completed by a computer or robot. Many tasks in daily business activities that involve data processing and working with electronic information can be easily automated. An example would be to include automatic email notifications when digital documents have been uploaded to an EDRMS and require review by management.

The Benefits of Automation

Automating tasks provides a number of benefits to companies in the form of improved quality, reduced costs and standardising of company operations.

Two of the immediate benefits you will notice from automating business workflow are:

1. Improved Communication - clear chains of communication

Automating workflow communication is a simple place to start for tasks that do not require manual interaction. For example, these may include automatic notifications once a supplier has submitted an invoice into your system, or a notification to accounts payable that the invoice has been approved by management.

Simple automated notifications using set templates standardise communication and avoid the time required by employees to send manual communications. Task reminders and automatic escalations are another way to make sure work tasks are being completed. While you can’t guarantee an employee will do the work, you can be safe knowing an automated system will continue to remind them until it’s done.

2. Quality and Efficiency - reduce manual errors

Automating tasks has been a common way to achieve higher quality through the avoidance of human error. A higher quality operation will increase efficiency as less defects or errors need to be repaired, providing additional time & cost benefits.

Manufacturing industries have implemented automated systems through use of robotics for many years to achieve increased quality. Automated quality systems are a key factor that allows manufacturers to remain cost effective and competitive in the modern economy. You can also apply this methodology to modern day-to-day business activities to achieve similar improvements in quality management, efficiency and cost effectiveness.

The Importance of Monitoring & Optimising

The subject of Business Process Optimisation and Business Process Management can become a long and complex task. While it is ideal to get your processes structured correctly first time around, this will often not be the case, and continual monitoring of workflow will assist in improved performance.

It is important to continually monitor business process systems to identify bottlenecks, redundant tasks or any other issues with implemented business processes.

Business Process Automation Implementation Infographic

Once issues have been identified, you can implement strategies to improve workflow performance like increasing resources to avoid bottlenecks and removing redundant tasks from your automated system.

Where to begin?

To improve quality, be cost effective and remain competitive, business needs to look towards automation. With recent advances in Cloud-Computing and web-based business tools, automating your business has never been more accessible.

To gain these benefits for your company you should start by planning and analysing your current company operations.

1. Identify Products, Services or management requirements that you provide or need.
  • Do these items have several inputs and tasks? What are they?

2. Analyse the workflow, what can be automated or completed electronically?
  • Are multiple communication paths required?
  • What type of communication is required?
  • What information is being shared between people and tasks?
  • Is information managed by Paper, spreadsheet or database?
  • Are any tasks repetitive?

3. Automate Processes
  • Identify a suitable Business Process Management BPM package and automate tasks.

4. Monitor Performance
  • Set KPI's and Performance Targets for your processes
  • Monitor tasks and identify issues
  • Remove, add, mitigate or change tasks to increase performance

Need more information?

We provide cloud-based business process management solutions for SMB and Enterprise. Head over to our contact page to request a free demo or consultation 

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