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What is process observation and what is the best way to implement it?

Process observation is essentially just that.It is data collection method used in Lean and Six Sigma methodologies.It is a way of confirming exactly what is happening during any particular process.One of the biggest time consumers in studying any type of process is data collection.An invaluable way of collecting data is through impartial process observation.
Although every improvement project has its own unique data, it is useful to know of some metrics that can be utilized in your observations to quantify results.You will want to measure these things early in a project and then again once improvements have been made to determine the impact. If the process being measured requires a lot of time and work, try measuring a sample first.Some of those things you will want to take note of in your observations are:

• Work-in-Process: The amount of work that has entered the process but has not been completed.
• Average completion rate: The average number of work items that are completed in a given time period (a day, an hour, etc.).
• Demand variation: The amount of fluctuation in the demand for the output of the process.
• First-pass yield: The percentage of work-in-process that make it all the way through the process the first time without needing to be fixed or re-handled in some way.This is a good indicator of how well the process is functioning. It also reflects your Lean and Six Sigma goals.In order to have a high first-pass yield, the process must have good process flow and run with few errors.
• Approvals before work can be completed or handoffs back and forth between groups or people: High numbers of either of these might indicate that your process is running slower than necessary.Lean processes generally operate at low numbers of approvals and handoffs and high levels of quality.
• Defects/Sigma capability: The Sigma level in Six Sigma is the rate of defects that occur per defect opportunity.You will want to have defect and defect opportunity clearly defined so that all employees clearly understand.It will make it easier to track.Also, be sure that these are what are important to your customer.
• Cycle or lead time: The amount of time it takes for any work item to make it through the process from beginning to end.
• Setup, downtime: Any delays or productivity losses that occur when people switch tasks.
In data collection, impartial observations of how the process is currently running are critical in identifying waste with respect to time, materials, etc.You can observe a lot by simply watching, although in some environments it may be difficult to observe the work itself.This is because there are so many work products that are virtual, for example, emails, phone, computer inputs and reports.In these cases, process observation is often implemented on a one-on-one basis with volunteers and trained observers.
A trained observer will follow an employee and watch what they do from one activity to another.It is important that employees be willing volunteers to get most accurate results.All staff should be involved in setting goals for the observation.It is also a good idea to have your observers come in as a neutral party.They should not be someone that the particular employee has day to day contact with.A stranger from a different department can be the most impartial.
The observer will record all data into a process observation chart.This is a table used to record specific attributes of each step while carefully watching the process.The information can then be used to develop your production plans.

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