Many of us – as Quality professionals – have implemented quality improvement projects throughout our careers. Best practices resulting from these implementations are paramount for:

  • designing processes for Six Sigma (defect-free) production from the beginning,
  • increasing business productivity on future projects, as well as
  • not ‘reinventing the wheel.’

After recently implementing a technology project, I thought it may be helpful to share some keys to implementing a successful automation technology solution. As part of any process automation project, you should make sure the project addresses the following aspects:

  • Find a business champion(s). Gaining the support of the CEO or president of the company for an automation project is almost always easy because they are focused on cost savings and the bottom line. It is the middle level manager(s) that can kill or make for a successful implementation. After a recent discussion with a middle level manager I was able to determine her motivation by the statement she made, ‘As long as back-end operations are moving smoothly, I am in support of anything.’ From the entire conversation it was apparent that her CTQ was focused on maximizing the ability to get sales on the books more quickly. Her support helped knock down many roadblocks along the development path.
  • Modify culture and behaviors. Moving the back-office administration personnel culture to be more accepting of technology and automation – knowing that jobs may be reduced because of it – is no easy task. Initiating training for all personnel well in advance of any structure changes will benefit those that remain as well as those that may need to be restructured. Most people do not embrace change or new ways of performing processes. Training will make technology implementations more familiar to them.
  • Conduct a gap analysis between what employees need and what the technology can accomplish. ‘I’m amazed that this software can do all the tedious work that annoys us on a daily basis,’ commented one employee impacted by the automation project. She became one of the project’s most evangelical and outspoken supporters among employees working the process.
  • Involve employees in the technology evaluation and selection process. During one of my latest process improvement projects, I was amazed at how well and how quickly the new process and technology was adopted by employees and supervisors. Everyone fully participated because the project was personal to them by the implementation date.
  • Prevent process exceptions. Odds are that your current process involves tens of exception paths that require thought intensive rework. While this promises job security for supervisors, they must also understand that each exception steals productivity from your process and profits from your business. Every process must show improvement, and supervisors are in a prime position to contribute to the evolution and be rewarded for a successful implementation.
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