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L+L Printers Uses Visual Process Management to Deliver Bottom-Line Results

April 24, 2014 No Comments

SOURCE: SmartDraw

L+L  Printers is a full-service commercial printer in Southern California, specializing in both offset and digital printing.  In addition to its core business, L+L offers mailing services, web-to-print storefronts, print-on-demand, variable printing, full prepress and bindery services as well as stochastic screening.

The Need for Documentation

Many of its premier accounts – large corporations in the pharmaceutical and electronics industry – required extensive documentation of internal quality control processes.  And, while L+L had this documentation, it wasn’t being used.

“In the past L+L would capture processes ineffectively.  The processes were all drawn out on pieces of paper that were stuck in a filing cabinet someplace,” said Bob Dixon, President, Digital Division.  “I didn’t even realize that we had most of our processes documented because it was in somebody’s filing cabinet and I didn’t know it was there.”

Because the company’s existing documentation needed updating and its business model was shifting towards more digital printing and on-demand fulfillment, L+L needed a way to get both its traditional printing processes and newer digitally-oriented processes into a new set of documentation.  This new set of documentation would not only have to communicate L+L’s comprehensive quality control to prospective clients but also be immediately accessible to employees.

The Visual Process Management Solution

To solve this problem, L+L implemented SmartDraw Software’s Visual Process Management (VPM) solution, a new way of capturing and storing process and organizational information.

A VPM collection is a complete electronic model of an organization.  It links every process with the position responsible for executing and managing it.  It separates complex processes into smaller components that are easy to manage and understand and links them to each other.

Unlike traditional documentation, which typically resides in binders and folders in a filing cabinet, a VPM collection is entirely digital and is stored on a server which everyone in the company can easily access and view.  Users with sufficient rights can instantly make changes as needed.

One of the greatest improvements of VPM over traditional methods is the live capture of information.  In this method,  a VPM facilitator interviews each employee and, using SmartDraw, documents their processes in real time in a single pass.  This way processes can be captured and documented extremely quickly.  It took less than 40 hours of meeting time to document all of L+L’s processes—more than 120 flowcharts in all.

The live-capture method was not only exponentially faster than traditional methods—it was also more enlightening for L+L’s management team.  With their processes laid out visually in front of them, they could recognize and solve major problems in their operation.

“VPM has helped us to better understand roadblocks in our workloads,” said Dixon.  “We use SmartDraw on a daily basis to test out potential work flows and try to remove the number of touches we have on our jobs,” added Carl Davenport, President, Offset Division.  “With the help of SmartDraw, we improved our processes and reduced our workload by 25 percent.”

Most notably, the management team discovered the company was using the processes for both offset and digital printing.  During the live documentation process, it became apparent that the customer service representatives were doing the same amount of work for both offset and digital printing jobs – except the average offset job is $5,000 and the average digital job is only $500. As a result, the company modified its processes and increased throughput by 25 percent.

The visibility into the internal workings of L+L’s processes provided value not only through process improvement, but also by creating a set of documentation to demonstrate the company’s quality control practices to prospective clients.  Because L+L now has a living collection of its processes, potential clients have been “very impressed” with the VPM collection and the company has earned several large contracts that it may not have received otherwise.

“We’ve seen measurable ROI from using the SmartDraw processes especially in how it relates to new clients’ requests for information on us,” said Bill Anderson, CEO of L+L Printers.  “It’s enabled us to land some big accounts.”

Advantages of Live Documentation

Because the VPM collection is stored electronically on the file server, it gets used daily which has led to a variety of benefits.

Visibility and Proactive Process Improvement

The greatest benefit of having a VPM collection is complete process visibility.  Because of the way the documentation is organized, anyone can view any process and employees actually use the documentation.  In fact, the VPM collection initiated a change in company culture at L+L.  Employees began to develop a more proactive attitude towards process documentation.  Employees and managers started to reference the collection daily and have made continual improvements to their processes.

Fifteen Percent Reduction in Training Time

Because of its effectiveness, L+L’s VPM collection was adopted as the organization’s training tool.  In a VPM collection, each one of the processes is assigned to both a position in the company which manages the process and a position that executes that process.  All of the processes that are either managed or executed by a position are listed in a special index file called a “job map,” which contains a link to each of the processes associated with that position.  Having all of a position’s processes referenced in a single place greatly decreases the time it takes to train a new employee because they can easily find, view and contextualize the processes that they are responsible for.

Not only did VPM greatly speed up the training process by an estimated 15 percent, but having an up-to-date set of documentation to show prospective clients also generated new business for L+L Printers.  What’s more, having VPM at everyone’s fingertips also began a shift in company culture that fosters the continual improvement and refining of processes.

“I would absolutely recommend VPM to other companies.  It’s been a wonderful exercise for us and VPM continues to be a tool that we use every single day,” said Dixon.

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