‘Zero Waste’ and Process Efficiency for Gaining and Retaining Customers

By Parul Bhandari


Information and data are readily available in today’s business landscape and we have countless organizational tools at our disposal. But where do startups begin if their aim is to have an operation with growth plans that are adaptable to changing market demands and new technology?


We typically consider company revenue and growth to be of utmost importance. Productivity and standardization are overlooked and sometimes even undervalued, though they lay the foundation for returning customers and a healthy cash flow.


Below are ways that entrepreneurs can begin elevating the productivity of their startups.


Goal-setting and prioritization


Meticulous and timely goal-setting, in addition to prioritization, result in less reworking and increased productivity. You have probably heard of setting SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals, but I am advocating the idea of SMART-S goals, which also includes the ‘support’ of senior executives, the board, team leaders, and staff. This support means pushing ‘down’ and applying effective goal-setting and prioritization to all levels of the organization.


Once the goals are set, next is understanding the customer through the Six Sigma Methodology, which encompasses: Voice of the Customer (VOC) and Critical to Quality (CTQ). Gathering VOC can be done using free tools like SurveyMonkey or putting together a small focus group.


Apply the 80:20 rule, which is the idea that 80% of the effects (problems) of your product result from 20% of the causes. By gathering a good understanding what is CTQ to the customer, you can focus on improving and standardizing the 20%.


Lean focus


Having worked in the change management and process transformation space for over a decade, I have repeatedly experienced the value and benefits of the ‘Zero Waste’ method. Waste in an organization can be classified as defects, overproduction, transportation, waiting, inventory, motion, and processing. Each of these issues, if not managed or occurring in excess, will result in irrecoverable losses of time and resources. Defects are the worst type of waste, as all the resources have already been spent, and are again required for the rework.


Tungsten Network surveyed 400 firms and found that they lost a total of 6,500 people hours per year due to inefficient processes in their supply chain. Adopting a ‘Zero Waste’ method is the first step to identifying where the waste is occurring, and its reduction can then be quantified in hours or the number of people, money, and resources saved.


Managing change and standardization


The practice of ‘unlearning’ decrepit methods of working is one of the key elements to thriving in a constantly changing business environment. With any new system or people-related transformation, adapting to ideas and processes needs to be deliberate to enable a culture shift for all staff.


While change is a great first step, sustaining new processes requires effort to keep them updated, streamlined, and standardized, ensuring the customer receives the same high-quality product every single time.


Tools like control charts can be used to assess whether a process is in ‘control’ (has less variance) or ‘not in control’ (has variance or outliers). A control chart is a series of measurable data points (e.g., quantity, time stamps, number of calls) recorded over time. With these metrics, we are able to identify the causes, such as certain times of day when variances occur, allowing us to resolve non-standard steps that lead to defects.


For instance, General Electric helped Subaru improve their process efficiency and uptime by 300% after implementing predictive analysis tools, which include real-time data, genealogy, and tracking throughout the plant.


Standardized processes should also be established with regulatory and compliance requirements in mind. In the case of an external audit, a company that practices the above productivity and standardization methods can be more self-assured about being compliant.


Parul is the Founder of Cresta Consulting.


About the Author


Parul Bhandari is the Founder of Cresta Consulting, a firm that provides management consulting services for technology and digital transformation initiatives–especially for startups looking to scale their business digitally. She has held positions in regional roles at top banks, insurance, retail and logistics companies in Australia, India, and Hong Kong. Parul holds elite certifications in Six Sigma, Project Management, LEAN, and Advanced Digital Marketing.



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