Success Stories

Process and Workflow Design

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A global high technology manufacturer wanted to shorten order to ship lead time for an important portion of its product line in order to improve on-time delivery performance and enhance competitive position.

Harmonic Systems Consulting (HSC) was given the opportunity to assist this client on the important Process & Workflow project

HSC partners assembled an internal project team of 12 people from the company and applied the Lean Six Sigma methodology, including Define, Measure, Analyze, Implement and Control phases, to the entire order to ship process for the product line. Throughout the process, HSC taught the team about Lean Six Sigma concepts so they could apply them in the future. Results included a more clearly defined product definition, a more efficient process design, more effective departmental communications and a dramatic improvement in recorded cycle time. The client is now consistently delivering within cycle times that meet or exceed customers’ requirements and is following HSC’s recommendation to gather additional data needed to further reduce cycle times.

The Director of Manufacturing wrote to HSC stating, “Our orders continue to grow, and our backlog too!... I believe the project we worked on together was worth the time. It opened our eyes to problems within our existing order to ship process.  The changes recommended by the team are beginning to pay off.  We will definitely keep you in mind if we choose to undertake any similar projects in the future.”

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Consumer Products

The US division of a large global consumer products manufacturer had an annual business planning process that did not work. The purpose of the process was to develop a plan to achieve the division’s sales and profit targets for the next 1-3 years. The process required the Sales, Finance, Marketing and Supply teams to work together and coordinate their efforts.

The Sales organization met with retailers to get them to accept the company’s promotion plans, place the company’s items at optimal locations on the shelves and accept new item launches. Retailers conduct their business planning processes in the summer, starting in June and finishing no later than August. Sales teams needed to know brand plans, their sales targets and how much they had to spend in promotional dollars. Next they would conduct their account planning preparation before their customer meetings, so they needed to finish preparations by the end of May.

In order to tell the Sales teams the brand plans and how much they could spend on promotions, Marketing (brand) teams needed to prepare their plans in advance of the Sales planning process, but Finance’s process to assign revenue and profit targets down to the brand level did not begin until September and did not end with final approval until November. Since they needed to know how much they would have to spend and how much revenue they were expected to drive, Brand teams did not typically finish their planning until October. As a result of this process, Sales teams had to make assumptions when they conducted business planning with their customers and sometimes had to go back to customers later to tell them that they did not have enough money to fund promotions that had been previously agreed. Needless to say, customers were not satisfied with this approach, especially when competitors did not have this issue.

To compound the problem, lead times meant that the Supply and Manufacturing organization had to commit to their expenditures and capital budgets no later than early August, well before anyone on the Commercial side was ready to commit to a forecast for the following year. As a result, the plants were already committed to a supply level for each brand months before the brand teams came up with a forecast of how much production they would need in order to achieve their budgets. The result was overstocking in some cases and shortages in others.

As a result of these issues, associates in all parts of the business were frustrated with the process. A partner with harmonic Systems Consulting (HSC) was asked to work with an internal team to assist the manager who had been put in charge of defining and implementing a new Business Planning Process. The objectives of the new process were to meet customer requirements to improve satisfaction with the retailers and align the commercial and supply organizations around the same plan to improve efficiency and teamwork.

We carried out the following actions:

  • Led the project, creating a charter, conducting a kickoff meeting and developing and implementing a project plan. Tracked and overcame issues to finish on time and achieve objectives.
  • Applied Lean Six Sigma methodology to the problem:
    • Worked with each functional area to map its current planning sub-process and showed where misalignment was occurring.
    • Defined “Voice of the Customer” requirements for the new process.
    • Conducted a Kaizen event to define undesirable effects from the misaligned process and design a new approach and timeline.
    • Developed metrics to measure improvement.
    • Developed an implementation and communication plan.
    • Rolled out the new process.

As a result of our project, the company:

  • Overcame undesirable effects and addressed all requirements.
  • Accelerated the process to complete 6 months earlier, thus meeting retailer timing and dramatically improving customer satisfaction. The commercial side of the business also provided a much more accurate forecast to the supply organization, resulting in better inventory management and lowering costs.
  • Aligned all functional areas around the process, improving teamwork and morale.

Global management was so pleased with the results that new US business planning process was used as the basis for a new global business planning process across the consumer products business.

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Consumer Products

An international pharmaceutical business implemented a new, leaner structure in an effort to streamline the supply chain process, but did not revise its business processes sufficiently to take advantage of the new structure.

As a result the desired improvements, faster deliveries, improved fill rates and overall lower costs, were not being realized. A partner with Harmonic Systems Consulting (HSC) was invited to lead a project to update and improve the existing Process and Workflow.

A liaison group between Sales and Marketing, was eliminated as part of the restructure. This group had been the primary group that coordinated development of in-store displays, bonus packs (e.g., 20% more free) and special packs (e.g., product with another product attached). Without the liaison team to run it, the display process ground to a halt and the brand and sales teams became concerned that consumer sales (consumption) would drop because there would be no display or special/bonus pack promotion activity to combat competition. One key part of the display process was display ideation. Ideation consisted of:

  • Determining requirements, e.g., what type of display, what the structure will look like, when it is needed, how many, etc?
  • Designing the artwork for the display or bonus/special pack
  • Designing the structure for the display or bonus/special pack (e.g., cardboard to hold the products)
  • Pricing and scheduling production of the display or bonus/special pack

Even before the restructure, the display ideation process was considered inefficient, with much rework and frustration. In addition, the process took too long to meet competition and was costing too much because of rework and air shipping to meet deadlines.

Despite the restructure, the display ideation process was run by people from 3 different departments. At the same time, the artwork and labeling department (who designed the artwork) had begun implementation of a major software change to track artwork changes and the project had fallen behind. In addition, the package design team (who designed the physical structure of the display) had begun its own major new software implementation. All 3 of the teams reported to the Vice President of Supply, but the display ideation process had no single owner, so no one was accountable for it.

Because of these issues, the Vice President of Supply challenged us to run a project to redesign the display ideation process within 4 months to improve efficiency and effectiveness. We were responsible for both project management and process redesign.


  • Met with the Vice President of Supply and Directors of the 3 involved departments. Convinced one director to be the process owner and worked with him to write a charter and form a team.
  • Developed a project plan and utilized Lean Six Sigma techniques, including a Kaizen Blitz, to define, measure, analyze, implement and control the process. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the process.
  • Worked with the Supply executive team to restructure and bring all of the artwork and labeling resources into the same department. Developed new job descriptions and reporting structure.
  • Managed the culture change needed to implement the new process and structure by meeting individually with process participants and stakeholders to create evangelists as well as engaging the larger team.
  • Coordinated implementation planning with the roll-outs of the two new software systems.
  • Ensured consistency with teams implementing other portions of the display process by coordinating design with them and helping them to map their processes.
  • Developed training for the new process tools and conducted a communications campaign to educate the organization on the new structure and the new process.
  • A year later, led a second team to further enhance the process to improve communications across additional departments involved in the ideation and production parts of the overall display process.

As a result, within 4 months, the company rolled out a new process that was 83% faster with less rework and started to produce displays again. Customers were much more satisfied with the process and the company saved money by not needing to pay fees to expedite production or air ship displays.

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