Is it a process problem or an IT problem? Use a Lean Six Sigma tool to find out


Over the last several decades, generations of IT professionals and managers have emerged right across Asia – the consequence of the “technology boom" of 80s and 90s, the year 2000 "rush" to fix potential issues, followed by the period of the internet explosion and todays era of the "Internet of Things"

We saw companies make huge investments into IT to leverage automation and gain competitive advantage. This then reached the SMEs. IT departments have long had the mandate to focus on automating processes and finding ways to help the business operate better and grow.

Today the pace has eased. In the process the industry has built many “solid” systems thinkers. They are often intensely technology savvy and very professional and meticulous in whatever they do. However even as new IT systems were rool-out and put into place, there have always been other challenges with the use of IT.

From my consulting and coaching experience while helping comanies with Lean I have often come across situations where solid IT systems have been put in place but yet they not properly used. For example it is common to find systems wrongly used. An experience a couple of years ago bears out this case in point. A client company was using a MRP system. And considering to replace it. In working with a team to examine their current processes we found that their inventory records were not accurate. Upon deeper investigation it was found that inventory records that were supposed to be updated upon production of finished goods were not being updated. The reason for this is that the day shifts were too busy and it was always left to the night shift personnel to update the records. This meant inventory records were of not up-to-date causing confusion concerning the level of raw materials, WIP and finished goods. This affected sales decisions as well as procurement decisions ona daily basis.

There was nothing wrong with the system. The pain was caused by improper use of the MRP system. It is always important to find the root causes of issues before concluding what to do about the problem. One of the best ways to do this is to use the Lean Six Sigma tool, value stream mapping which may be used to examine all the weaknesses in any process. The wastes can be identifed and the weaknesses removed, and this will save the company money through cost avoidance of having to unnecessarily revamp or enhance their IT systems.

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