The purpose of this paper is to report on observations of administrative work processes in two Danish manufacturing companies. The brown paper method was applied in both cases as a visualization technique to map the process flows and to highlight improvement areas. The paper explores the process and discusses drivers as well as barriers for this form of employee involvement in optimization and change programs.
The paper is based on two case studies that illustrate the process of completing a brown paper exercise. Key staff along the process flow, from sales and order entry to the physical delivery of goods, participated in a structured course over a one‐month period.
The paper stresses the importance of collective learning and validation of current practices. One success factor is the ability to create an atmosphere of openness wherein staff are able to speak freely and honestly. This process provides top management with a range of areas to consider for future optimization. Top management commitment is an important factor in driving the process beyond just mapping as the two cases demonstrate.
Important elements in such visualization processes are commitment and support from top management and a common understanding of the terms, techniques, and methods utilized by employees. Spending time discussing the approach and explaining why it is needed as well as providing training is believed to be vital to the success of the process. This paper has relevance for all types of private and public organizations.
The paper underscores the value of involving employees in assessments of existing business performance gaps, explorations of root causes for their existence, and planning activities in order to develop the business.
The paper makes a contribution to a limited number of publications that report on how companies in practice conduct common process mappings in order to identify areas for improvements.
Stentoft Arlbjørn, J. (2011), "Process optimization with simple means: the power of visualization", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 43 No. 3, pp. 151-159. https://doi.org/10.1108/00197851111123604Download as .RIS
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