There are countless support tools for the process improvements in their different areas: analysis of problems, generation and organization of ideas or representation of processes or workflows. Each tool has a different specialization and form of use, as well as various advantages and weaknesses.
General criteria to select and use improvement tools
The main problem when choosing which tool or tools to use during the development of an improvement project is to decide between the widest existing offer. In addition, each professional has their personal preferences and tastes, so it is sometimes difficult to reach an agreement.
Some recommendations in the selection and use of this type of tools would be:
- Carry out a pre-selection of those that we think are best suited to our objectives and needs.
- It is not necessary to strictly follow the instructions or methodology of the selected tools.
- Learn to use a few tools and adapt them to the needs of our organization.
- Problem analysis tools
Two of the most used are: the cause-effect diagram and the Pareto diagram. Next, we will see its main characteristics and functioning.
It is an analysis tool that allows you to obtain a detailed and easy-to-see picture of the various reasons that can cause a certain effect or problem. Used. Therefore, when you want to detect an undesirable effect and discover its causes.
It is usually applied in the investigation of the causes of a problem, by incorporating the opinions of a group of people directly or indirectly related to it.
The cause-effect diagram is also known as the Ishikawa diagram, referring to its creator, the Japanese teacher Kaoru Ishikawa. It is currently considered as one of the main improvement tools due to its great simplicity and effectiveness
The Pareto diagram is a very useful analysis tool to make decisions based on priorities. It is based on the principle that 80% of the problems can be solved, if 20% of the causes that cause them are eliminated, enunciated by Vilfredo Pareto. This means that with a few corrective actions a large number of deficiencies can be solved.
It is based on a bar chart, which represent the factors corresponding to any magnitude and are arranged from highest to lowest (in descending order) and from left to right.
This type of diagram is basically used to:
- Know what is the most important factor or factors in a problem.
- Determine the root cause of the problem.
- Decide the goal of improvement and the elements that must be improved.
- Check if the desired effect has been achieved (by comparison with the initial Paretos).
Tools to generate ideas
The best known is the technique known as Brainstorming, also known as storm or brainstorm. It is a group work tool that facilitates the emergence of new ideas on a specific topic or problem.
It was devised in 1938 by Alex Faickney Osbon and seeks to take full advantage of the interaction between several individuals through meetings of a relaxed and informal nature where it is a matter of accumulating ideas, if possible innovative and creative, on a specific issue for its assessment later.
Process representation techniques and workflows
The SIPOC Diagram, for its acronym: Supplier, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customers, is the graphic representation in five phases of a management process. It is a very interesting system because it allows to visualize the process in a simple way, identifying the parties involved in it:
- Supplier. Person who contributes resources to the process
- Inputs. Everything that is required to carry out the process; information, raw materials, professionals, infrastructures, etc.
- Process. Set of activities that transform inputs into outputs, giving them an added value.
- Outputs. Results that are generated (products, services, etc.)
- Client. The person who receives the result of the process. The objective is to obtain the satisfaction of this client.
The flowchart or activity diagram is a well-known technique that consists in the graphic representation of the process of any activity. It is used with assiduity for the improvement of organizational or industrial processes
These diagrams use symbols with defined meanings that represent the execution flow through arrows that connect the start and end points of the process.
All these tools are characterized by offering a very schematic and clear image of the processes, actions or algorithms of any activity related to the work circuits, which is of great help for a quick detection of specific problems that were going unnoticed.