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To solve any problem in business, it is fundamental to understand the root cause of the problem first. However, most of the time a problem does not have one cause but many. In this case it is necessary to identify and find tailored ways to tackle the cause(s), which can then result in sustained improvements in the organisation.

SECAR is a tool that is often used in lean thinking, and it can be applied to any work process from simple improvements in a basic process to working on large-scale complex processes, such as managing organisational change. It is a five-step improvement guide helping leaders find the best path for the solution, by identifying and then working through the different elements of the problem. These five steps lead to discussions that in many cases might lead to better range of solutions than brainstorming or reliance on past experience would have led to.

At kinetik, we have utilised the SECAR tool in:

A large bank in Sri Lanka and it was a fundamental instrument to bring about new ideas leading to a decrease in account opening times from 24 days to 8 hours. It was also a fundamental tool in improving a credit card issuance process. We have also made SECAR an essential part of the toolkit for a Fortune 500 business, training over 200 staff in this method.

A factory,. after applying SECAR to the process of a Vertical Machining Centre (VMC) of a factory, they saw a 76% reduction in operations. Additionally, they were able to reduce the average setup time from 498 minutes to 113 minutes[1].

The first step to utilising SECAR is to identify the problem. This can be done by asking open-ended questions that start with When, Where, What, Who and How. These questions cannot simply be answered using yes or no, but instead motivate a discussion. Let’s take a restaurant as an example. They are having problems with customer satisfaction. They ask “Why are the customers dissatisfied?” The answer is that the customers are waiting too long to receive food. Now that we know the problem, the five steps of SECAR can be implemented.

1. Simplify:

In this step, we look at the processes involved and see if there is anything that can be simplified to decrease the time it takes for a process to be completed. In the restaurant example, it is possible to see that the kitchen processes could be overly complicated and not standardised. By standardising the process, this not only decreases the time to prepare a dish, but also makes the task easier for the kitchen staff.

2. Eliminate:

Often you may realise that within the processes, there are steps that don’t necessarily add value to the final outcome. In this event, these steps should be eliminated. For the restaurant example, having customers wait for the server to bring the menu was increasing the process time for each customer. By simply eliminating that step and already placing the menus on the tables prior, they were able to jump to the ordering stage immediately.

3. Combine:

You may also find that a process is both important and simple enough, but it still takes a lot of time. In this case, you might think of combining it with another process. For example, in the restaurant, the process of taking the order and communicating this order to the kitchen requires two steps. By having an electronic order taking system, they can have the order immediately appear on the kitchen system, therefore combining two steps into one. This also leads neatly to the next step, automation.

4. Automate:

Manual processes can take too long. They are efficient when human interaction is required, but not necessarily for processes that don’t require emotional intelligence. For example, having a waiter is important because it creates a relationship between the restaurant and customer. However, manually washing the dishes may not be as essential. In this case, purchasing a dishwasher would help decrease the time needed for to turn around clean plates, and it also decreases costs by optimizing water and soap usage.

5. Relocate:

The final step is relocation. This process explains that being in the right place is also important. This could be an internal relocation such as rearranging the kitchen in the restaurant so that the customers can view the kitchen and watch how they work. Some restaurants have even turned this food preparation step into a visual show such as Japanese hibachi style restaurants. Secondly, this may be a strategic relocation, where the restaurant owner decides to relocate the restaurant to another part of the city where he is more likely to attract his desired customer base.

Using these five simple but effective steps can identify the root causes of the problems within your business and find creative ways to solve them. SECAR helps business managers view issues through another lens and work to solve them accordingly. It can be applied to problems with different levels of complexity making it a highly useful tool to help improve processes and make your business more successful.

More information about SECAR can be also found in this explanatory video by Kinetik, here: https://www.kinetik.uk.com/simplify-eliminate-combine-automate-and-relocate-secar/

SECAR will also be on a new e-learning platform called Acadmi (www.acadmi.com). Here is a sneak preview:

Ketan Varia, with editorial support from Burcu Atay and Olivia Adebo


[1] Laxman, M. “Productivity Improvement Through ECRS Methodology.” Blogspot. N.p., 22 Aug. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. http://laxmanme.blogspot.com.tr/2012/08/productivity-improvement-through-ecrs.html

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