Process improvements in operations

For a business to remain relevant in today’s changing environment and achieve profitability, the business operations have to undergo continuous improvements to ensure the goals for profitability and relevance are achieved. Process improvements to operations are the techniques that are used by a business to enable it achieve optimized results in its core activities.

Companies that are involved in improvement activities have to first define their goals and objectives as well as their visions and mission in the market place. After which the processes that are in need of improvements or changes are identified.

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Process improvement in an organization’s business operations is an important concept as it allows for the organizations functional activities to be effectively managed. It also improves the performance of the business in terms of its operations and employee performance. The need to improve process operations comes about because business operations are seen to be important for ensuring that an organization achieves profitability and maintains its competitiveness within the market.

Google decided to perform process improvement operations on its Google Search engine by introducing Google Instant despite the website performing beyond expectations. The improvement saw the Google feature becoming not only just a search tool but also as a process that allows the user to refine their search questions without touching the search button on Google’s webpage.

Basically the website predicts the search terms that the user is going to type. The term instant was used for the new improvements so as to make the search process much faster. Google statistics show that it takes an average person using the search engine more than 9 seconds to type in a search word.

It takes the Google search engine 300 milliseconds to respond to the search query typed in by the user. With the Google instant search, the company will expect the amount of time people search for results to be reduced to 3.5 billion seconds (Copeland, 2010).

The reason for the improvements has mostly been to deal with competitors such as Yahoo and Microsoft who are also reinventing themselves to meet the increasing search process industry.

The improvements were also necessary to fasten the search process for the user thereby saving sometime. Google Instant has combined the use of interface designs and background processes so as to keep the webpage relevant to users and advertisers.

The Instant feature is not meant to change anything for the advertisers as the method of ranking ads in the website has not been changed. What will change however is the number of searches Google users get to perform in a limited amount of time (Copeland, 2010).

According to the Google designers and management, the websites new improvements have received positive responses with users ranking the Google Instant Search engine as the number one search tool in the Internet. Users have found typing only one letter of what they are looking for as a much faster techniques than typing the whole word or sentence.

While the searching software has undergone some changes, the ranking process of the Google results still remains the same. This has enabled the company achieve its vision of ensuring the instant approach is something that the general population who seek information cannot do without (Copeland, 2010).

Toyota’s Georgetown car facility based in Kentucky is where all of the carmaker’s models come for paintwork before being returned to the assembly line to have their engines installed as well as receive interior accessories. The facility handles 2,000 different Toyota car models every day that are in need of paintwork.

The machinery that operates the paint sprays is mostly controlled by programmed robots. The facility however faced some overcrowding issues at some point because of the number of cars it handled in a day. This forced the car manufacturer to clear a whole floor of space to reduce the overcrowding factor in the Georgetown facility.

Two areas were cleared by dismantling equipment and having excess inventory and raw materials removed. This created a whole floor space that was clear, the size of a whole basketball pitch. The story of how Toyota was able to achieve this extensive clearing and elimination of unwanted material made it reshape itself in the U.S. car market industry (Fishman, 2006).

According to the plant manager, the Georgetown facility spent up to ten hours in body painting for the 2,000 cars brought to the facility before the clean up exercise was done. The programmed robots did most of the work in the paint shop as they oversaw paint being channeled through long hoses connected to paint reservoirs.

Car painting had to be done according to color batches where cars of the same color had to be painted together. If the system was to paint cars of a different color, then the paint had to be flushed after the painting was completed for one car and reloaded with another color for the next car. The exercise of flushing out the paint meant that the unused paint went to waste.

The Georgetown facility basically wasted 30 percent of the car paint it used when the machines had to be flushed out and the supply hoses had to be cleaned. The car paint was also very expensive which meant that it lost a lot of money when it disposed of the paint (Fishman, 2006).

However, the Georgetown facility underwent some process improvements in its operations which saw the percentage of paint being wasted go down considerably. The new improvements saw each robot painting eight cars by selecting a paint cylinder. A whirling disk that was placed at the bottom of the robot’s arm was used to spray paint the cars with a top layer of paint.

After the robot painted the car a few seconds, it would put down the used paint cartridge and select a new one. This eliminated the process of flushing out the supply hoses, thereby reducing the amount of paint that was washed out of the paint pipes and also it eliminated the aspect of cleaning the hoses between car paintings (Fishman, 2006).

As Fishman (2006) indicates, “instead of using hoses to paint the cars, the plant resorted to the use of paint cartridges that could be refilled automatically from the paint reservoirs”. Also cars were not batched according to the color they were going to be painted with which eliminated any delays in painting the cars.

With the process improvements, cars spent eight hours in the process line being painted instead of the previous ten hours. The paint shop was bale to hold 25 percent fewer cars than it originally used to before the cleaning exercise was done. The amount of wasted paint also went down. The previous painting exercise required 100 gallons of paint per car before the improvements were effected.

The amount went down to 70 gallons of paint which also reduced the amount of money used to purchase paint. Other benefits that came about from process improvements were reduction in cleaning solvent usage and an increased efficiency in the car wash paint booths from 33 to 50 cars in an hour (Fishman, 2006).

References

Copeland, M.V. (2010). Google Instant: the search leader unveils what it hopes is a fundamental change to how we search online. Fortune Online Magazine.

Retrieved September 18, 2010:
http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/09/08/google-instant/

Fishman, C. (2006). No satisfaction at Toyota. Fast Company. Retrieved September 17, 2010 from: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/111/open_no-satisfaction.html

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