YKK Stories

Fundamental Behavior 10 – Be Process Driven

March 5, 2021
Author: YKK
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Be process driven

In our careers all of us are faced with the challenge of improving the status quo.  Manufacturing must improve efficiencies, scrap ratios, and other facets of manufacturing.  Sales is faced with improving order entry processes and forecasting models.  In fact, no matter which area we touch, we are all challenged to seek improvement to increase our competitive edge in the marketplace.

At times we all struggle to find 10% improvement in some KPI related to our activities.  At first, we may think “that’s not possible” or “we’ve done all we can do.” Sometimes I find myself with no idea of where to begin.  It can be discouraging and stressful when faced with a seemingly impossible task.  Being process driven allows us to break down processes in an orderly manner and find a place to start.

For me, the easiest place to start is to define the process.

Usually the easiest way is to find a big white board or wall and write down each step of the process on a “sticky note” and place them in sequential order on the board.  Review each one of those and break each one down into micro steps and place those on the board. Keep repeating the process until the process flow is completely defined down to finest detail. This is generally referred to as process mapping.  At this point we are not worried about improvement, only getting every detail on the board.  More is better, so don’t stop just because you have a lot of sticky notes.  Keep going until you can’t break it down further.  There is no stress in this step because we are so familiar with these processes.  We know every minute detail.  It is just a matter of getting all of this up on a board in front of us.

Once this is done, we can study the board and pick one “sticky note,” or micro step in the process, to improve.  Tadao Yoshida referred to this as a “paper thin” improvement.  Dealing with this isolated task is more manageable for us.  We can think of ideas to improve, or maybe eliminate, this step.  We can choose any of the “sticky notes” on the board.  We may feel some are easier than others.  We can start there.  We may feel some will give greater value so we can start with them.  The main point is that we are actually starting!!!

Now we can enter the second phase and improve that one little step.  We can measure before and after the improvement to evaluate our progress toward our final goal.  We can establish KPIs for this step so in the future we can verify that we are still obtaining the same level of improvement.

We can move from “sticky note” to “sticky note,” and the good news is that we have a lot of them on the wall in front of us so we can make many improvements to achieve, or in most cases, surpass  our initial target.

By focusing on the underlying process, and being process driven, we can take the fear and anxiety out of the continual improvement process.  So, the next time you are faced with a big challenge, try to define the underlying process in as much detail as possible.   It may help you find a starting point and a path to success.

Aza Shumate
Director – Corporate Operations and Manufacturing
YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. Snap and Button Products