The Art of Deconstruction – Knowing What You Need Starts Off with Knowing What You Have

By David Wilt, Manufacturing Solutions Architect

At InSource Solutions, we work with clients to improve the way they do business.  This often requires that we work together on industrial production process flows to discover the key nuances that affect the organizations’ ability to improve. Granularizing this process flow is called deconstruction.

Let’s start with a definition: Deconstruction -” the act of breaking something down into its separate parts in order to understand its meaning, especially when this is different from how it was previously understood.”  Why is it beneficial to understand the details of a manufacturing process flow? What do we gain from knowing this minutia? These are appropriate questions so let’s get to the heart of the discussion.

When you take apart (deconstruct) a process, you start with what you have. You ask lots of questions, i.e. What happens before, during and after the individual process step? You ask questions such as:

  • How does this product get here?
  • Who or what ensures the part arrives?
  • Why is this step important?
  • What happens to this product in this step to add value?
  • Where does the part go when the step is complete?
  • What type of quality checks are performed while in this process?
  • How frequently (when) are the quality steps performed?

As your understanding of these details unfold you start to see holes in your total comprehension of the importance of steps. It is a great idea to not just talk about the process but to map it out in a “brown paper” process flow. Seeing the steps and intricacies in black and white adds much impact and allows you to see the big picture of what is and is not happening in your plant. See the following example.

Source:  Wikipedia Commons. Polski: Mapa VSM. 2007.

Things that you thought were happening do not at times, and vice versa. Your understanding crystallizes and you naturally start to see opportunities for streamlining the process (i.e. leaning it out.)  With this detailed process deconstruction, you can more clearly see the interactions and inter-dependencies of all process steps. The reasons for specific activities start to make sense and conversely the non-value-added steps distinguish themselves in dead end loops.  Through deconstruction you gain an appreciation for “what you really have” and this reveals “what you need” to make your organization more efficient and effective.

So, what is next? The next steps are to look over your process in a new light and reconstruct by focusing on the vital steps of the process. Things to consider as you put all the process elements in alignment:

  • Gain agreement from the stakeholders and those most affected that the reconfigured way of doing business will be different, but the end improvement goal is clear – to produce a higher quality product at lowest cost, for example.
  • Institute change gradually, utilizing a pilot or prototype methodology. This helps ensure ownership from the employees and works out the inevitable bugs that will arise as a modified way of doing business is put in place
  • Measure your progress and post the improvements
  • Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes and set backs that can occur when sea changes are deployed
  • Remember, change can be difficult, but the end results are worth it as you see the changes make a positive impact on the bottom line
  • People and process are often the key ingredients to a successful transformation: Create, document, train and audit the processes to make the new way of business the only way of business!

As we have seen in this short writing, the deconstruction of a process is not easy and involves many people and a skilled facilitator, but the outcome is rewarding.  When you start with a crystal clear view of what you have, you’ve taken the first step toward an even more efficient operation.

Learn more about the InSource approach to Organizational Transformation.