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Top Seven Tips for Reducing Lead Time – The Project Solvers of America, Inc.

By Al Gubiotti, 

All of you probably work in organizations that have some things in common.

You have a “customer” at the beginning and at the end of your process who demands an excellent product or service from you. For your business to be truly successful one of your main challenges is “how long” it takes you to provide your project, product or service to your customers. So if a customer places an order or you start a project – how long does it take you to complete that order/project successfully e.g. what is your turn around time or lead time? What process will you use to determine the lead time?

Here are seven tips to reduce turnaround times for your products and services when you consider the tasks on a project.

1. Understand what makes up your turnaround time and start to measure it.

There are many people in business who do not even know what their turnaround time is, far less measure it. Is that you? Before you can improve your turn around times you first of all need to know what it currently is! What goes into the lead time, what are the tasks that must be performed and what resources will be needed? Once you’ve identified them ask yourself the question “Does this task do anything for the customer or the project?”

2. Strip out all of the wasteful steps in your process.

Having identified the tasks and times, you next need to eliminate all activities that do not add value to your customers or project. Here are just a few examples of wasteful steps that appear in many business processes:

  • Counting things,
  • moving things,
  • inspecting things,
  • looking for items,
  • storing items,
  • filing items,
  • waiting for items,
  • processing items when they are not required.

These steps can often be eliminated and will have a dramatic impact on helping reduce your turn around time.

3. Identify the time rate for your process based past on your lessons learned from previous projects.

Businesses are made up of lots of functional groups whose resources do not necessarily reflect the demands made upon them by customers/user. To reduce turnaround time we need to have work flowing through our processes at the same rate as our customers demand it – not faster, not slower, just at the same rate wherever possible. This is not always easy to achieve but having a customer-focused process flow, rather than functional silos that are not particularly well connected, will again help reduce turnaround time by eliminating bottlenecks and wasteful “hand over” between one department and another.

4. Measure and then eliminate errors.

In most processes mistakes cause rework and add dramatically to your overall turnaround time. Do not accept chronic errors as a way of life. Build in fail safe mechanisms to prevent errors occurring in the first place. Often if you ask the question “Why?” at least five times you can then get to the root cause for errors occurring. Eliminating errors and rework will again have a dramatic impact on turnaround time and customer satisfaction (both internal and external).Never pass on an error to the next part of the process!

5. Look at the geography of the process – improve it.
Walk though your process from beginning to end and work out how far people and information have to travel. Ask why, why, why, why, why? Doing this can be a real eye opener! It usually exposes lots of wasted time that is currently part of your overall turnaround time. By bringing process steps closer together we can often improve communications, reduce turnaround times and eliminate many errors.

6. Reduce the number of tasks that can be performed in a day

Large number of tasks in a day mean longer turnaround times-one thing goes wrong and many tasks are affected. Large number of tasks in a day is great way of hiding waste!

7. Have an aggressive turnaround time reduction goal- Tinkering won’t make it happen!

If you are really serious about improving customer satisfaction then you need to be totally committed to stripping out waste, improving quality and reducing turnaround times.

This can only be achieved with aggressive goals.

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