Work Simplification

What is work simplification and how can it help your organization?

By Keith Koontz, P.E., MBA - Lead Consultant, Kevin Kennedy Associates

Do a Google search for work-simplification or work flow simplification and you’ll find more than one definition.  One is:

“the intelligent use of well-established human patterns to encourage and expedite the finding and implementation of more efficient work methods. “ (taken from "Work Simplification." System Consults. Web. 30 Oct. 2012)

Another is :

“a scientific approach to study work processes with a view to simplifying the process such that the work process becomes more efficient and effective and thereby raises productivity and reduces wastage of labor effort, materials, space, time and energy in the process of producing a good or delivering a service.” (taken from “Work Simplification.” Yahoo Answers. Web. 30 Oct. 2012)

Said more simply…Can we do it smarter, better and more efficiently to save time and money, labor and materials?

The industrial arena has sponsored formal work-simplification programs for many years resulting in cost-reductions and profit-increasing innovations worth billions of dollars. Many of these programs have a basis from classic Industrial Engineering & Operations Research principles tailored to industries and organizations such as:

  • Service Providers
  • Retail
  • Transportation
  • Hospitals
  • Banks
  • Manufacturing
  • Product Design and Development
  • Military Operations
  • Energy: Oil and Gas Operations, Wind, Solar
  • Construction and Field Service Operations

Over the years, these programs have had a variety of recognizable names and buzz words such as;

  • Work Simplification
  • Process Reengineering
  • Toyota Production Systems
  • World Class Manufacturing (WCM),
  • Continuous Flow Manufacturing (CFM)
  • Just In Time (JIT) Production
  • Quality Circles
  • Continuous Improvement Programs
  • Lean Manufacturing
  • Lean Transformation
  • Lean Six Sigma

Granted all these work simplification programs have their own spin and emphasis, however they all  require process mapping  in some form or another, which was introduced by Frank Gilbreth to members of ASME in 1921 as the presentation “Process Charts—First Steps in Finding the One Best Way.” In 1947, ASME adopted a symbol set derived from Gilbreth's original work as the ASME Standard for Process Charts.

The four major steps in process mapping have remained unchanged over the years and include;

  1. Process identification -- attaining a full understanding of all the steps of a process
  2. Information gathering -- identifying objectives, risks, and key controls in a process
  3. Interviewing and mapping -- understanding the point of view of individuals in the process and designing actual maps
  4. Analysis -- utilizing tools and approaches to make the process run more effectively and efficiently

At its best, work-simplification is most productive when a team approach, top to bottom, within the organization is adopted.  Widespread participation, by many team members throughout the company not only allows for greater improvements but for greater ultimate acceptance of those improvements as well.

When your organization is searching for expert leadership to improve your bottom line, make sure the services offered have a sound basis in the engineering skill sets required for an optimal return on your investment. Kevin Kennedy Associates’ experts have decades of experience and have worked through many of the improvement systems listed above. They will recognize which aspects are right for your organization and can provide engineering and management solutions for the small start-up company, mid-size or large corporations to provide break-through levels of productivity, cost reductions, profit and customer satisfaction.


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Peter Habicht, Lead Consultant
Peter specializes in welding and metallurgical engineer with 40 years industry experience in commercial nuclear power plant construction.


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