In February 2016, the Fort Mill, South Carolina office hosted a Value Stream Planning (VSP) Kaizen for their Credit and Return Authorization (RA) process. This event was co-facilitated by members of the OT Team and LEAN Professional students a couple of weeks after their first LEAN Professional class.  This also gave them a feel for what lies ahead on their LEAN Professional journey.

The cross-functional Kaizen team consisted of the SE Sales Manager, Customer Account Specialist, JDE Team/Sr. Business Analyst, Customer Support Specialist, Quality Manager Trenton, Accounts Receivable, Receiving York, and the Shipping/Receiving Supervisor Pelham.

Over the course of four days, the team reviewed LEAN concepts, helped the group construct current state and target state maps of the credit and RA process, and prioritize improvement ideas that will help us reach our target state goals.

The A3 was presented to the group and provided an outline of how they were going to work through the week to document the current state, target state, and manage/address all areas for identified improvement opportunities. The A3 relays a powerful, concise, visual message as to why the team felt this process required a “reason for action” on behalf of customers and our business.

In order to see first-hand how the business processes credits and RAs from customers and truly understand our reasons for action, we first mapped our current state. We learned that it takes several days, minutes, and steps to process one Credit/RA. Of those steps, we found that 75% of the information entered was redundant throughout the entire process. Once this data was reviewed, the problem statement was created and box 1 of our A3 was complete.

During the current state mapping process, improvement opportunities were posted on the map and helped guide us to our target state. Based on the improvement opportunities that were identified by the team, our target state shows a 50% reduction in days to process, a 46% reduction in process time, and a 50% reduction in number of steps.

The areas for the improvement action item list created during this event consist of Just Do Its (JDI), Kaizens, and projects that will support reaching our target state goals. The JDIs range from providing access to the credit and RA folders on the customer service drive to standardizing the terminology used when discussing credits and RAs. The Kaizen events range from how the customer service group investigates each credit and RA request to a planning session that will allow us to utilize our current ERP system to systematically enter and track the status of each credit and RA. The projects range from redesigning our current customer problem reporting (CPR) system to policy alignments with terms and conditions and the approval process for each credit and RA.

For the LEAN Professional students, this experience was invaluable in seeing first-hand how powerful teamwork and communication is when working to improve a process. The benefit of having a cross-functional team in this event allowed us to see and understand different perspectives as well as challenges each team member encounters within this process. As we travel along our LEAN journey, we are learning that reducing the amount of time and/or resources utilized to work through a process does not mean reducing our workforce, it means that we will now have more resources to allocate to addressing areas of improvement throughout the organization in a more timely and standardized manner.