TeamFlow User Profile
"TeamFlow is really the most flexible process mapping tool out there."
In the late 80's, a leveraged buyout left the company swamped with $3.1 billion in debt, prompting American Standard's charismatic CEO, Emmanuel Kampouris, to devise a dramatic business strategy to sustain cash flow by reducing working capital. Kampouris was determined to reduce the company's working capital to zero. It was an objective he was certain American Standard would reach by reducing inventory capitalization from $600 million to $300 million and by increasing operating earnings by 15%.
As a first step, Demand Flow Technology (DFT) was implemented in the company's manufacturing operations. Demand Flow Technology is an advanced manufacturing technology that integrates elements of Just-in-Time and Total Quality Control management systems into one comprehensive business strategy. The DFT program worked just as Kampouris had predicted, and by 1993, American Standard achieved its goal of paring inventories by 50%.
Encouraged by this success, company executives decided to rework their business processes as well. They adapted demand flow manufacturing concepts to their administrative operations, creating a new program called demand flow office (DFO). Like demand flow manufacturing, the DFO concept emphasizes quality, speed and flexibility. The goals are similar as well: to reduce administrative cycle times and make office operations as cost-effective and productive as possible.
DFO's most commonly-used methodology is business process reengineering - the radical redesign of a business process, based on careful analysis of the current process and free-form brainstorming to find a better solution. As an important tool in the methodology, American Standard selected CFM's TeamFlow process mapping software, a package that provides easy creation and modification of process mapping charts. Using TeamFlow, American Standard's DFO teams can develop detailed maps of current office processes, and track the results of proposed and implemented changes.
Gus Vess, American Standard's DFO training manager on the work flow project, describes their approach:
"A lot of companies view reengineering simply as an opportunity to reduce staffing, but our goal is to rethink the way we're working. That's the focus of our demand flow program. Our goal is flexibility - to meet customer needs, deliver products quickly and cost-effectively, and get it done right the first time. To be effective, we need good processes in place."
Five main processes run through the operations of American Standard's business groups: business strategy, product development, order acquisition, order fulfillment and customer service. Vess and his counterparts throughout American Standard travel from location to location, mapping out administrative functions that drive these five processes. At each location, they identify the core team for the process in question, then they define a start and an end point, to provide a clear understanding of what's included in the process.
"We involve the key players -- the managers as well as the people who do the work," says Vess. "We work with large sheets of butcher paper on the walls, and colored post-it notes, to map out the process as we're doing it now. This is where we first make use of TeamFlow. Everything that goes on the paper is also captured in TeamFlow, giving us a road map to follow. It's very easy to introduce changes to TeamFlow. The maps reconfigure automatically on-screen - just like a spreadsheet shows financial adjustments - so we can easily see the effects of a specific change. This gives us a benchmark to measure the new process against the old, a graphic aid to show us changes as they occur and something to measure them against."
Vess explains that each TeamFlow process map shows a detailed sequence of the steps necessary to fulfill each business function. The software also lets them tie all individual tasks to a person or team, helping to create ownership of the process and making it easier to monitor worker and management responsibility. For example, the first step in fulfilling an order is key stroking the order into the computer system, then securing materials, manufacturing the product, testing to assure that the product meets government or industry standards, and then shipping to the customer. To analyze each step, Vess says, "We ask 'Why do you do it this way?' Most often the answer is 'Because that's how we've always done it.' So there's immediately room for change. We also ask, 'If this were your company, what would you do to make it better? What changes do you think are needed?' This opens an avenue for very important suggestions on how to improve the way things are running."
As each map is developed in TeamFlow, the team members specify milestones to reach - stages at which the team can determine if the process is on track. Each necessary decision, task and milestone is reflected in the detailed TeamFlow process map that graphically shows the sequence of events, who works on each step, what deliverables must be created, and what milestone must be reached before the process advances to the next step.
Vess says that TeamFlow's flexibility, along with the easy-to-understand visual symbols used to build the maps, make it simple to see the whole picture. "In a very short time, a breakthrough concept will come up that substantially changes the way we've been working," he says. "It's clear where the problems and opportunities are." In fact, Vess says that his groups often use TeamFlow to make corporate presentations on their programs and to document project status.
For the teams, working through their first TeamFlow processes map is only the beginning. Vess explains that each division of American Standard will use the TeamFlow software over and over again to map and then modify individual business processes. "I did 39 of these reengineering sessions last year, and 25 so far this year, all around the world," he says, "and it's amazing that the processes are engulfed in the same kinds of problems from one country to the next. Using TeamFlow, each team is able to break through its old problems and develop new models."
"It's really rewarding how the new process comes together at the end," Vess says. "Within each division is the knowledge and ability to rethink the way they're working. It's the magic that happens when you give people the opportunity to work together as a team. We're well on our way toward achieving our goals. Each new process moves us that much closer to the goal of zero working capital. This will mean very big things for our company in the coming years. TeamFlow is really the most flexible process mapping tool out there. I'm sure other companies reengineering their business processes will find it very useful."
Last Update: November 4, 2009