Process Balancing

“Process Balancing” is a procedure whereby a set of process steps are “equalized” in terms of time required to accomplish them (note “effort” may not be the same!).

Process balancing tools are used where the process is contained in a defined area. Examples include:

– Order Entry Department

– Mortgage Application Process

Key tools used in process balancing are the time study and takt time chart, but other tools such as skill matrix, etc., may play a significant role in the analysis.

The Process Balancing techniques are not exclusive to “one-piece flow” – small batches may be necessary between certain steps – but use of the process balancing tools is meant to drive the process to one-piece flow.

Primary Issues in Typical Transactional Environments

– Excess “stuff in process”

– Poor space utilization

– Low employee efficiency

– Long/erratic cycle times

– Poor balance of labor content across process steps

– Conveyance, standby and motion waste

– Disorganized workspace and component/supply storage

– High variability of demand on multiple processing centers

e.g., call centers/customer arrivals

– High variability of task content (non-standard work/procedures)

Where Process Balancing activities occur along the Lean Six Sigma Roadmap: Define Phase:

– What is the Goal of balancing the process?

– Capacity improvement without adding resources

– Productivity improvement without sacrificing quality

– Space reduction

– Day-to-Day scheduling

– Long-term resource planning

Measure Phase:

– What tools will be used to gather, present, and analyze data?

– Time Study and Task Times

– Historical data: Process exits, Productivity, Customer Demand, Staffing, etc.

– Layout and spaghetti flow

Analyze Phase:

– Task Time Chart with breakdown of customer value-add vs. non-value-add activities

– Time Traps and Constraints (if any)

– Variability of Demand

Improve Phase:

– What steps will be taken and in what order?

1. Reduce non-value-add time of Constraints and Time Traps to meet Customer Demand

General Rule is that Max Task Time of Time Trap should be no more than 90% of Takt Time for low variability

2. Reduce NVA of non-Time Traps

General Rule is that Max Task Time of all other non-Time Traps should no more than 90% of Takt Time (customer demand) for highly predictable environments or 80% of Takt Time for processes with variability

3. Reorder/Re-sort tasks to balance work content, alter staffing

4. Modify Layout to accommodate new staffing; Implement work controls

5. Iterate on reducing non-value-add time, then customer value-add time and rebalancing/re-staffing until goals are achieved.

Control Phase:

– Implement visual control tools to sustain the improvements

– Takt Boards for the Time Trap and overall process

– 5S & Issue Boards for problem resolution and process control

Operational Definitions:

Customer Value Add: A task or activity for which the customer would be willing to pay, done right the first time and the unit moving through the process physically changes in fit, form, or function towards completion.

Example: Electronic funds transfer via credit card

Required Business Waste: A task that is required to support the business but for which the customer is not willing to pay

Example: Financial Services employee writing customer credit history on a credit application

Non-Value Add: A task that is not required and should be eliminated because it is wasteful Example: Financial Services employee having to look for missing information needed to complete credit history

Review Sources of Waste: TIMWOOD

Transportation (moving items from one place to another)

Inventory (items/paperwork/information waiting to be processed)

Motion (excess movement and/or poor ergonomics)

Waiting (delays caused by shortages, approvals, downtime)

Overprocessing (adding more value than the customer is paying for)

Overproduction (The grandfather of all other forms of waste)

Defects (rework & scrap – doing the same job more than once)

Note: Another waste is: People (untapped and/or misused resources)