Working on Workflow
I recently moderated a discussion with three in-plant managers called “In-plant panel: Workflow Flossing.” Even though current research supports the value and need for workflow automation software, for many, working on workflow is a lot like going to the dentist. I asked this panel of in-plant managers to share their experiences to encourage other in-plants and show them how to “floss.”
The panel consisted of Lisa Stelter, Sanford Health; Mike Lincoln, State of Colorado; and Sherri Isbell, University of Oklahoma (OU). I questioned them on when and how they work on workflow, how they’ve overcome hurdles, the processes they use to improve workflow and their advice for other in-plants.
Is Workflow Work-Event-Driven, Issue-Driven or Ongoing?
Sanford Health works on workflow every day, and Stelter listens to her team, enabling them to have a voice to inspire the changes that need to be made.
The State of Colorado’s workflow is a mix of ongoing, event and issue-driven approaches. Though the transactional work would seem static, there are 11th hour changes, physical production issues happen and new customers are sometimes added. Lincoln noted that the best thing his shop can do for customers is to be flexible and have a workflow that can easily adapt to customer needs.
Like the State of Colorado, OU has several modes of workflow operation. The standard day-in and day-out practice is buttoned up, but an unusual request or issues can cause a bottleneck in a smooth process. Event-driven workflow work might include a new equipment installation.
Though Stelter overcame the hurdle of consolidating two shops into one at Sanford Health, she is now faced with finding a Web-to-print tool because the solution that was chosen for the in-plant by the company was not a fit for print production.
Lincoln’s operation at the State of Colorado uses a process that is currently being refined, which identifies the steps needed to make sure that work can be done quickly and efficiently.
For Isbell, just knowing that she will have some hurdles helps prepare her university shop.
A workflow change that Sanford undertook was to consolidate paper stocks from 85 to 20. In addition to making paper selections easier, this opened much more space on the shop floor.
In Colorado, after using a solutions-based process to gain improvements in large jobs, the in-plant also looked at how it was structured for small jobs and created a solution that works for both types so that staff can understand and best serve customers.
OU recently reinstated daily production meetings, adding a daily audit, or general process improvement, and noting upcoming issues. By proactively looking for potential workflow gaps it helps prepare the staff when something comes up.
“Don't forget that customer training on the front end and how those jobs are submitted to you is just as important as your software automation,” said Isbell. “Look at workflow as a process from the start to the end, and never stop trying to improve it. Never think it's good enough. Look at your process. Look at jobs that went through your system with less-than-perfect workflow. Look at jobs that went through your system that were delivered incorrectly. We all have them. It's something that we don't like to talk about and something that we definitely don't like going out the door that's incorrect, but we have those. Don't just think, ‘O.K., this is not going to happen again.’ Put a process in place to keep it from happening again. Look at workflow as more than just moving jobs through the shop. Look at it as a procedure that, if implemented properly, can save you a lot of time and money.”
See advice from the other panelists and their full comments in short videos here: http://bit.ly/2PuLIcy.
Elisha Kasinskas is Rochester Software Associates’ (RSA) award-winning marketing director. She is responsible for all marketing, public relations, social media and communications, and community building for the firm. Ms. Kasinskas joined RSA in 2010. She is a marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience in sales, product management and marketing in leading product and service business-to-business and business-to-consumer firms, including Pinnacle (Birds Eye) Foods, Level 3, HSBC, and a number of regional high-tech firms. She holds an RIT MBA and a BS, Marketing from Radford University. Kasinskas is a frequent moderator for industry speaking sessions, an in-plant blogger, and has received industry awards including the IPMA Outstanding Contributor award. She was an OutputLinks Women of Distinction class of ’15 inductee. Her marketing work with IPMA has secured multiple awards from the American Marketing Association (AMA).