The best thing you can do for process improvement: Just get started!
At Avanto, we work with a lot of dealers on process improvement.
They bring us in because they know they could be doing better but they’re too close to the problem. The initial conversation could be about virtually any aspect of their operations—from order entry and acknowledgements to accounts payables and receivables, sales management and more.
Usually when we start talking, I find the dealer is ready, albeit with widely varying degrees of enthusiasm, for what they expect will be a major project involving multi-departmental committees and endless meetings. They’re basically resigned to all that as inevitable if they’re going to see any kind of meaningful process improvement.
From a consultant’s point of view, that kind of thinking has wonderful implications for billable hours but in spite of that, I have to tell them their expectations are just plain wrong!
Here’s a not so dirty little secret about process improvement: It’s not rocket science. It doesn’t happen because a bunch of people spend hours sitting around a conference table or because some hero at the dealership steps up to the plate and hits it out of the ballpark. It’s not about instant, game-changing home runs; it’s all about singles and it takes place over time.
Case in point: a leading Allsteel dealer that we worked with on how they were processing transactions. When we started with them, they told us as many as 25% of their total transactions had an error of some kind.
By the time we were finished, that 25% error rate—which was costing them a small fortune in essentially non-productive labor—was down to less than 5%!
How did they do it?
It wasn’t with a big committee and hours and hours of meetings. As much as anything else, it was about just getting started.
Working together, we put in place a system to automatically and without any human intervention track what has happening with their transactions. We identified what was going wrong and why and we fixed it. And after making the changes, we waited for a bit, looked at their transactions again, identified what was still going wrong and fixed that too.
And over time, we kept repeating that process of automated tracking, analysis and correction until the initial 25% error rate was down to just 5%.
To repeat: It didn’t involve a lot of people or time spent in meetings. It definitely didn’t involve team members themselves manually tracking what was going and entering data (complete with their own errors!) into complex Excel spreadsheets.
What made it work was a system that automatically tracked activity and did so in a way that allowed us to identify the source of errors and point us towards possible solutions. And that system was easily repeatable so that it could generate a pattern of continuous improvement over time that eventually yielded the desired result.
It wasn’t rocket science. It wasn’t a huge, overwhelming project. It was just somebody at the dealership who people listened to who said, “Let’s just start.”
If you’re ready to start on a process improvement journey of your own, Avanto can help. Want to find out more?
We work with many different industries, helping them navigate the digital transformation process. Reach out to us and see how Avanto can save your company time and money.
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