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Implementing Our Strategy to Reduce Front-End Process Cycle Times

Diana Hvistendahl, PMP

Since the Front-End project’s initiation in 2017, IWCO Direct has been on a mission to streamline our front-end process. Several system enhancements, coupled with extensive training on new processes, helped our teams reduce Front-End process cycle time by 30% in 2018. We’ve been able to continue that trend through the first half of 2019.

The Front-End process cycle time is measured from the point we receive a client’s data file to the point we release the job to production. Our goal is to eliminate two days on average from this process. In order to do so, we are employing an offensive and a defensive strategy:

The Defense – Cycle Time Statistics

In the coming weeks, our teams will be meeting to dive deeper into our cycle time statistics by client, job, and departmental process to focus on any problem areas in Content Development (CD), personalization signoff processes, and release to production steps. The data will also point out any accounts that have delays within the front of the Front-End process that led to the delay of the beginning of CD processes, despite data arrival. This data will justify the effort required to pursue the offensive strategies.

The Offense – Kaizen Teams, IT Enhancements, and Training


At the end of May, Scott McDuffee, from Steel Business Systems, led his largest Kaizen and Value Stream Mapping event at IWCO Direct with our front-end teams. We had subject matter experts and leaders from Sales, Business Services, Scheduling, Product Engineering, Client Services, IT, Planning, CD, Outsourcing, and Purchasing participating in the three-day event. We started with a review of our project’s past and all we have accomplished so far. We also set the stage for our 2019 goals and the specific goals for this first Kaizen.

For our Value Stream Mapping exercise, we focused on the front of the Front-End process – from (a) a client’s request for quote to (b) release to CD. We completed a comprehensive Value Stream Map, including wait times and other forms of waste for one of our larger, more complex accounts. The team split into groups to do Gemba walks and collect process information. Each group learned new information, which led to several high-impact opportunities we later prioritized with the larger team. These opportunities are now part of our strategic roadmap and include reducing the amount of required data entry, using templates to create job instructions, and automation ideas. Each opportunity has an owner and a team assigned to tackle it.

In addition to the Kaizen events and resulting projects, we are also piloting new job instruction copying functionality within our ERP system and a pilot for estimate templates. All of these efficiencies will improve our front-end process cycle time.

IT Enhancements and Training

Some of the opportunities on our roadmap will require updates or additions to our existing systems. By following our IT Project Intake & Prioritization process, our team can ensure these technology enhancement requests are well-defined and prioritized within our existing portfolio of projects.

Following any technology or process changes, the Information & Process Services team, with the help of involved subject matter experts, will be prepared to train all the impacted groups on new expectations and activities required for their roles. Keep reading SpeakingDIRECT to follow our journey.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2019/07/19/reducing-front-end-process-cycle-times/
Diana Hvistendahl, PMP


Diana Hvistendahl, PMP

Director, Information & Process Services. Holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College and a master’s from Metropolitan State University. Has been viewing challenges as opportunities for team-building at IWCO Direct for more than five years. When not improving processes and creating new tools to increase efficiency at IWCO Direct, she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and visiting her husband’s distillery.

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