Since my October update on our workflow efficiency initiatives, we’ve been training all our Account Management teams to follow an improved front-end process. Leading up to October, a group of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from Estimating, Sales, Scheduling, Outsourcing, Planning, Purchasing, Product Engineering (PE), Client Services, and Content Development analyzed, streamlined, and vetted every process, from initial request for quote to a job’s release to production. Complementing their work, IT implemented several technology enhancements to support the new workflow.
Our main goal for the front-end departments is to implement a very lean process and reduce the amount of time it takes us to convert our clients’ inputs into a final direct mail production workflow. The faster we can get work to our production departments, the faster we can mail a campaign, the faster the offer is in consumers’ hands, and the faster our clients can reach their business goals (like acquisition, loyalty, and compliance) while achieving positive ROMI.
Every project is about three primary benchmarks: speed, quality, and scope. Lately, we’ve enhanced data collection regarding our speed, commonly referred to as “cycle time.” Here’s how our recent process improvement initiatives are already generating results internally and for our clients’ direct mail campaigns.
How We’re Measuring (and Improving) Cycle Time
The famous Peter Drucker quote, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” helped us kick off the cycle time reduction initiatives in early 2018. For all lettershop work, we looked at length of time between some key front-end process milestones:
- Average number of days between (a) receiving the client’s final inputs and (b) the Account Manager sending personalized proofs (e.g., audits or signoffs) back to the client;
- Average number of days between (b) the Account Manager sending personalized proofs (e.g., audits or signoffs) to the client and (c) the client approving the personalized proofs;
- Average number of days between (a) receiving the client’s final inputs and (d) project available in lettershop production areas.
We look at this data in many ways (e.g., by client, by month, etc.) to focus our improvement efforts where they are needed most and adjust the proper elements of our processes. One of the best signs of success we have for a front-end initiative is feedback from our teams.
When we started measuring and monitoring the daily tasks assigned to our Content Development department, the data enabled our supervisor team to more proactively manage staffing levels. One of our supervisors says the daily reports and standup meetings “gave us the metrics we needed to measure ourselves. Programming time, processing time, late inputs, and capacity issues affect the cycle time in our department. The reduction we made in our cycle time can be attributed to us all being more aware of these elements and the impacts they have.”
Creating Competitive Advantage Through Cross-Team Communication
In the coming weeks, the Front-End Project Team will begin to publish the various cycle time statistics for all department managers and our strategic leadership teams. Having this data published for all the teams each month will help us focus on exactly which process improvements will impact our competitive advantage and provide clients the improved speed to market they require.
With everyone on the same page about our process improvement goals, from leadership to operations, we can really start to see positive results from our improvement initiatives. Keep an eye on SpeakingDIRECT as we target cycle time, quality assurance, and scope for improvement in 2019 and beyond.
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