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Process improvement at a government department

Process improvement at a government department

Introduction

The aim of this report is to assess the internal processes of a government body responsible for processing two types of applications for an agency responsible for awarding funds. Following a request from Mr Smith (Head of Department) regarding the possibility of reducing the processing time in order to improve both processes by 50%, I am in a position to state the following:

Findings

Basic processes compared (old) (see Appendix attached)

If we compare the two processes involved, we note significant differences in time being consumed by each process. For example, input information for the basic application and the special application is 60 minutes and 140 minutes, respectively. Also, there are differences (however, not so severe) in the verification of information process, namely 60 minutes and 100 minutes, respectively. As for the double-checking, it takes a special application three times as long to go through this process. Curiously enough, the mailroom appears to be the only constant here; regardless of the nature of the application, as the time for both is still 30 minutes. However, to conclude this analysis of the basic process, we can see that moving between stations takes three times as long for a special application than a basic one. In total, we note that it takes twice as long to process a special application (e.g. 360 minutes) than a basic application (e.g. 180 minutes).

As for possible reason why this should be, one could argue that the special nature of application requires more effort from our employees to process, thus resulting in not only lower volume of work carried out, but also a failure to meet the demands of our customers (Slack, Chambers & Johnston, 2007:93). In addition, we can also note differences in the 'work in progress', namely that the special application processes have more applications waiting to be processed than the basic, presumably for the same reason as stated earlier. Finally, even though there are more people working in the processing of the special applications (see Appendix attached), the total time per allocation is too long and inefficient.

Cycle times

As for the cycle times, i.e. the average time between units of inputs (e.g. in this case complete application forms (Slack, Chambers & Johnston, 2007:106)), it takes less time per basic application (e.g. 90 minutes) to leave the process, compared with the special application (e.g. 120 minutes).

Throughput rate

As for the throughput rate (i.e. the average rate at which a unit flows past a specific point in the process (NetMba, 2007)), we can observe that the basic application process has a higher rate than the specialised one, namely 0.011 and 0.008 minutes.

Value-added throughput efficiency

Regarding the value added throughput efficiency (i.e. a focus on work content that actually adds value to the product or service (Brandon-Jones & Slack, 2008:30)), we note that the basic application process gives slightly more added value than the specialised process, i.e. 7% and 6% respectively.

Throughput efficiency

With reference to the throughput efficiency (i.e. the measurement of the difference between the processing time and work content (Brandon-Jones & Slack, 2008:29)), we note that the basic process has a higher rate of efficiency than the specialised process, i.e. 20% and 15% respectively. A point worth noting here is that the special application process has a lower level of efficiency as the application form makes its way through the process (Brandon-Jones & Slack, 2008:29).

Basic processes compared (new) (see Appendix attached)

In accordance with the Head of Department wishes to improve each process by 50%, I have been able to optimise the processes as follows. Firstly, if we double the number of people working on each application form process, we make significant improvements to the internal process. This can be demonstrated by the new lower figures for 'work in progress' regarding the basic and special processes, namely 4 and 7 minutes respectively.

Cycle times

By implanting changes in the staffing figures, we can reduce the cycle times for both by 50%.

Throughput rate

With reference to the throughput rate for both basic and special processes, we can see an improvement of nearly 50%.

Value-added throughput efficiency

As for the value added throughput efficiency, we can see a significant improvement as well as parity (i.e. 33% for both basic and special processes).

Throughput efficiency

Finally, by allocating more employees to these tasks, we will be able to reach the target as requested by the Head of Department, and in the case of the special process, surpass it.

Recommendations

It is recommended that the department finds the financial resources to finance the additional five posts (NetMBA, 2007), as this will allow the department to target the bottlenecks (Dun & Bradstreet, 2010) that have built up, notably in the special application process total time - see Appendix attached. In addition, by incorporating the proposed recommendation, we will be able to reduce the work-in-progress for both the basic and special application, resulting in an improvement in throughput time that will mean a faster, more flexible processes able to deal with the current volumes more efficiently. However, should volume increase then it may be advisable to think of an online solution (Reijer & Liman Mansur, 2005:295) that allows the applicants to have an element of control over the process. For instance, an applicant can access the relevant application form in real time (Atrill & McLaney, 2009:26), and then he/she must fill in all the necessary sections (so as to reduce checking costs later), and send it to the department 'as is' to be processed. This would, I'm sure, reduce input time as it has now been transferred to the applicant himself (assuming that the department is actually responsible for this), thus reducing the verifying time, as I am sure the applicants have sound and total grasp of their own details. Finally, the need to double check would be reduced but not discarded, as a 'completed field' does not necessarily mean that the information is correct. Simply put, an online solution would allow the department to benefit from a degree of parallelism (Reijer & Liman Mansur, 2005: 298) that should reduce costs. Furthermore, the department could benefit from less coordination problems if time moving from workstation to workstation was minimized (Reijer & Liman Mansur, 2005:300). However, it is strongly recommended that a cost-benefit analysis should be performed before committing the department to a potential costly online solution that does not actually improve our processes (Reh, 2010). Should none of these recommendations meet with support, then perhaps 'empowering' the staff will allow us to find a cost-effective in-house solution to the process bottlenecks (Kuo, T., HO, L., Lin, C., Lai, K., 2010:25). Alternatively, management may consider outsourcing the process to a third party (Reijers & Liman Mansar, 2004:303) to reduce costs.

In conclusion

Essentially, what we have is a design issue here. What needs to be determined is how we are to redesign our processes. The easiest option would be to hire more people to undertake the task. However, I feel that this is short-term solution only as I am sure the number of applications in the future will increase not decrease. What would be a prudent course of action is to investigate an online solution so that the department can benefit reduced complexity and standardization (Slack, Chambers & Johnston, 2007:106)

References

Atrill, P. & Mclaney, E. (2009) Management accounting for decision makers. 6th ed. Harlow, England: Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

Brandon-Jones, A. & Slack, N. (2008) Quantitative analysis in operations management. 1st ed. Harlow: Prentice Hall/Financial Times.

Dun& Bradstreet (2010) Identifying the limiting factors in your business [Online]. Available from: http://smallbusiness.dnb.com/company-activities-management/sales-selling/12375537-1.html (Accessed: 23 March 2010).

Kuo, T., HO, L., Lin, C., Lai, K. (2010) 'Employee empowerment in technology advance work environment' Industrial management and data systems, 110 (1), pp.24-42 [Online.] Available from: DOI 10.1108/02635571011006380 (Accessed: 23 March 2010).

Netmba (2007) process analysis [Online]. Available from: http://www.netmba.com/operations/process/analysis/ (Accessed: 23 March 2010).

Netmba (2007) process analysis [Online]. Available from: http://www.netmba.com/operations/process/analysis/ (Accessed: 23 March 2010).

Reijer,H.A. &Liman Mansar, S.(2005)'Best practice in business process redesign: an overview and qualitative evaluation of successful redesign heuristic', Omega, 33 (4) , pp.283-306, Elsevier Science Direct [Online]. Available from : http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/doi:10.1016/j.omega.2004.04.012 (Accessed: 23 March 2009).

Reh, J.F. (2010) Cost benefit analysis [Online]. Available from: http://management.about.com/cs/money/a/CostBenefit.htm (Accessed: 23 March 2010).

Slack, N., Chambers, S. & Johnston, R. (2009) Operations management. 5th ed. Harlow: prentice hall/Financial Times.

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