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Considering the Pros and Cons of Rapid Improvement Events

All business processes start out operating perfectly (that's the plan, anyway). Over time, however, things change. Gradually, a simple process becomes more complex, and this complexity can breed inefficiency. Rapid Improvement Events aim to identify and remove the "extra" from processes and return them to efficiency. The events

  • Train workers how to use tools and techniques to identify waste in a process and eliminate it.
  • Set new expectations for process performance.
  • Educate the workforce to "think Lean" (eliminating the flab in company processes). Over time, employees become intolerant of poor quality, poor communication, and poor process performance.

Rapid Improvement Events can provide immediate benefits to a company, but an organization also has to keep an eye on the potential disadvantages, too.

The pluses of RIEs

You can point to several obvious advantages of Rapid Improvement Events when considering them for your quality process. With careful planning, all these benefits can be yours!

  • Cost savings: Your company will save money through

• Faster, streamlined process performance

• Reduced labor costs

• Improved quality through fewer errors

• Less cash tied up in partially finished goods

  • Energized workforce: Workers organize the work area, analyze the process, identify waste, and eliminate it. Employees' ideas solve the problem, so they "own" the solution.
  • Immediate payback for improvements: This payback is often the result of streamlining labor and returning excess material for use elsewhere.
  • Relatively inexpensive to conduct: An RIE has minimal paperwork and overhead.

The minuses of RIEs

Before your organization embarks on a program of Rapid Improvement Events, you need to consider these possible problem areas:

  • Improvements are isolated to one area. To gain full benefit from Rapid Improvement Events, an organization must undertake a company-wide conversion to Lean processes.
  • The process you seek to improve must be out of service for about a week. Consider working ahead to stockpile material to use during the event.
  • RIEs may raise unmanageable worker expectations. Carefully set team member expectations so they'll know what to expect, and count on them to spread those expectations to others in the organization. Process changes focus on what's possible within the event's duration.
  • RIEs make a process run faster and more error-free; however, if the process was making poorly designed parts to start with, it will now make them faster. RIEs are based on the premise that the product or service created is the optimal product desired by the customer. If the process output specifications are for poorly designed parts or services, then the team will create the poor design faster and more efficiently. However, it won't improve customer satisfaction.
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