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Top 8 Business Process Improvement Methods (2021)

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When Henry Ford reimagined the assembly line and shortened the time it took to manufacture a car from 12 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes, he was applying a business process improvement methodology to help his company stay at the forefront of innovation. But you can’t simply apply a generic process improvement technique that suits all businesses. This is why you need to understand what business process improvement is and the techniques that best fit your process improvement project.

Defining Business Process Improvement (BPI) – A historical approach

The demand for improving business methodology has shot up since the business process reengineering (BPR) wave in the early 1990s. During this time, we saw the emergence of methodologies, techniques, and improvement tools for process improvement projects

Business process improvement focuses on continuous improvement and long term change.

But where do you begin with business process improvement methodologies

You can start by ironing out any bottlenecks for your business. For example, in manufacturing, any errors in the existing processes will have negative effects downstream. Solving even small inefficiencies can pay serious dividends throughout the entire process.

Consider these various process improvement techniques.

1.- Model-Based Integrated Process Improvement Methodology (MIPI)

MIPI describes “what to do and how to make it happen”, especially when it comes to improving efficiencies. 

This seven-phase methodology includes:

  • Understanding your business needs
  • Understanding the existing processes
  • Process modeling and analysis
  • Process mapping and redesign
  • New process implementation
  • New process and methodology assessment
  • New process reviewing

MIPI helps align an organization’s business needs and to highlight the problems preventing them from reaching their vision and mission.

2.- Super Methodology

The super methodology is a five-step improvement strategy designed to improve overall productivity. 

However if you combine two or more, you might witness better results. This is suitable for the improvement efforts of a small to medium-sized company through five phases:

  • Process selection – where are the perceived bottlenecks
  • Process understanding of the system and its various components
  • Process measurement of current KPIs and other data aggregated
  • Executing a new process based on the findings
  • Reviewing the data collected in the new process and comparing with the previous one

3.- Benchmarking Methodology

In this method you aim to adapt ideas and strategies, products or services, and processes from successful organizations (ideally in the same industry as yours) by comparing them to those of your business. 

Improvements could be in the manufacturing process, updating legacy technology, or even company direction.

The successful implementation of this can be seen in the 1980s with a manufacturing shift in the United States, by companies such as Ford and GM. As the Japanese automakers like Honda and Toyota flooded the market with fuel efficient, reliable cars Ford and GM adapted to these market changes by adopting these technologies and processes into their own cars.

4.- PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) Methodology

Developed at Western Electric by Walter Shewhart, PDCA methodology involves continuous improvement PDCA cycles to improve productivity. The stages of the PDCA cycle encourage accurate planning and measuring effective methods through feedback.

Here are the specific steps of the PDCA cycle:

Plan: At the planning stage, the business improvement manager (or other key stakeholder) has identified an opportunity for change and is actively planning on ways to implement it.

Do: The next step involves applying the proposed change to the process. It’s better to start with a limited scope so you can pivot if needed. 

Check: At this point, it’s essential to analyze the results and use data-driven metrics to understand if your experiment worked. 

Act: The last stage of the cycle is to apply all that you have learned in the previous steps. If you feel that the plan didn’t drive the desired results, then it’s necessary to adapt and tweak as necessary. However, if your experiment was a success then it’s time to drive changes across the board. 

5.- Six-Sigma Methodology

Six-sigma is solely a smart business process management methodology. It involves detecting and removing errors and defects from your business processes by concentrating on outputs that directly affect customer satisfaction

It was first introduced in Motorola to reduce defects and cycle time. Sigma tools include the DMAIC and DMADV approaches.

  •       DMAIC

Its phases include;

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyze
  • Improve
  • Control

Its construct has an approach of measuring and analyzing processes to define modalities and sources of a defect to be used for seeking improvement.

  •       DMADV

The phases of DMADV include:

  • Define
  • Measure
  • Analyze
  • Design
  • Verify

If your existing processes do not meet the required quality standards even after improvement, you should conduct a DMADV. This method uses cause and effect analysis (fishbone diagram), to visually display the causes of defects.

6.- Lean Thinking

Originating from the Toyota Company, lean thinking is a business improvement methodology that aims to reduce waste from processes. Some of the issues that lean methodology seeks to address include:

  • imbalanced production quantities
  • transport inefficiencies
  • production bottlenecks
  • inventory errors
  • product defects
  • wastage

In its most basic form lean manufacturing seeks to maximize all processes that add value and get rid of every step that doesn’t. It’s a practice of extreme corporate weight-loss that’s had far-reaching consequences for virtually every modern industry — not just manufacturing.

7.- Kaizen Methodology

Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning continuous improvement, which explains its basis of gradual, continuous and incremental improvement. 

It focuses on making small continuous improvements in order for them to have a large scale impact. In Kaizen, employee-manager relationships are cherished and employees are highly encouraged to share feedback and suggest ideas. 

8.- Total Quality Management (TQM)

This is a business improvement methodology that is best for an environment that’s constantly changing. TQM is a system of practices, training techniques and tools that keep adapting to customer demands. 

This technique encourages teamwork, obligation-based continuous improvement, and improvement ownership driven by the need to keep up with customer needs. 

Twitter and other social media platforms have changed the landscape of how companies are responding to customer needs, and often demands. Not only can customers more readily give feedback about your product or service, but now they can broadcast it to a wider net of potential and existing customers.

Many companies are consciously (or unconsciously) addressing these changes using TQM – having mechanisms in place for quickly and efficiently responding to these customers needs, as they arise, in order to protect brand equity and reputation..


Digital Twin and Simulation on Business Process Improvement

But what happens when implementing any of these BPI strategies becomes a bottleneck in-and-of-itself – where testing, making changes, solving for the unknown variables and implementing new strategies is becoming a burden on your business and personnel?

This is where building out a digital twin and simulation can prove to be your saving grace

A digital twin is a virtual model of an existing process, product or service. By replicating this in a virtual setting companies can better understand and predict the performance of the business, and even find new revenue streams.

Essentially, it is a virtual recreation of your business.

To understand its value, consider its ability with simulation procedures where you can predict correct timings of process outcomes. 

You could also picture it as real-time visualization of how your business processes are running. This supports analysts in mastering process flow patterns with the information used to improve flawed processes which give business process management clear visibility of when, where, how and by who a process was undertaken. 

Digital Twin’s cloud-based platform means the ability to monitor your business processes anywhere, in an end-to-end structure, as long as you can access a web browser. This applies even to back-end systems where multiple processes are running. Its timeline analysis technology brings faster reliability, data-driven decisions, real-time feedback, precise prediction, and low-cost simulation, which is all you need for effective business process management.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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