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ECRS is a lean tool used to analyze a process and remove the non-value added steps from it. It stands for Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange and Simplify. This also happens to be the order in which the solutions are to be designed - first try and eliminate, if not, then combine or rearrange or simplify.

Eliminate - Remove or get rid of the steps.

Combine - When steps cannot be eliminated, then seek to combine multiple steps into one.

Rearrange - Reorder the steps to smoothen the flow.

Simplify - Uncomplicate the steps.

 

An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Johanan Collins on 23rd Jul 2021.

 

Applause for all the respondents - Suyash Ketankumar Wani, Rahul Garg, Johanan Collins, Setu Bhardwaj, Beena Ram, Dhirendra Singh, Darryl Collins, Shrikant Angre.

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Q 384. What is the ECRS method for process improvement? Explain with examples.

 

 

Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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ECRS or Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange and Simplify is a Lean technique. ECRS is used to reduce or eliminate wasteful steps from any business processes, be they a process in manufacturing or a process in the office. ECRS is a method that can be used for fast improvements.

           

Eliminate: In a process which currently takes a certain number of steps, if we were to eliminate a step it would shorten the process. For funny example would be Tom Smykowski in the 1999 Cult comedy Office space, Tom’s job was to take “the specifications from the customer and bring them down to the software engineers”. The consultants eliminated his job as they had the customers directly send the specifications to the software engineers. A funny example from a cult classic but it does the job of explaining elimination.

 

Combine: When elimination is not possible, the next step is to see if any of the steps in the process can be combined. A classic example would be the use of macros in Microsoft Excel. By creating a macro of multiple steps when working on a excel file you are combining all those steps together. The analyst does not have to do those steps again as the macro does it for him.

 

Rearrange: When elimination or combining is not possible, rearrangement of steps is done to make the process safer, easier, or faster. A classic example of rearrangement of steps is Henry Ford’s assembly line for the production of cars. One of the main benefits was the reduction in the assembly of a car from half a day to under an hour.

 

Simplify: When faced with a complicated process, simplifying steps is undertaken. This done to ensure that the process is easy to understand by the operators. Visual aids are an easy low-cost method of simplification.  
 

Sources: https://www.creativesafetysupply.com/glossary/ecrs/#:~:text=ECRS%20stands%20for%20Eliminate%2C%20Combine,processes%20or%20even%20office%20procedures.

https://www.lean.org/LeanPost/Posting.cfm?LeanPostId=1245

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ECRS stands for Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange and Simplify. It is one of the lean method used in problem solving, in order to reduce or eliminate waste.

 

image.png.f62043609b2b64d274b54118349d11b8.png

 

When is this method used?

 

ECRS is used when

- Business requires immediate improvement from the problem state

- Team is planning to implement lean methodology to achieve continuous improvement

 

Steps to implement ECRS?

 

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Following is an example of Work Analysis Sheet that can be used

 

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- This method is implemented along with doers

- First step is to draw the process map/process steps

- Process map is to be drawn till the last level L1 .... Ln, in order to get minute details regarding the process or the work analysis

- Capture all the relevant information related to the process like: Quality, Cycle Time, On Time, etc.

- Once the above steps are done, then we should ask questions in following order

  1. Eliminate

     - Can we eliminate this step?

    - What is the value this step adds to the process?
    - Can we automate this step?

  2. Combine

     - Can we combine this step with other steps?

    - Can someone else do this step?

  3. Rearrange 

    - Is this sequence correct? 

    - Can we re-arrange the step and thus get a better process flow?

  4. Simplify

     - Why do we do this step?

    - Is this the best way to execute this step?

    - Can we completely/partially automate this?

    - Implement the best practices followed in the industry?

 

 How else it can be used?

 - This can complement PDCA method to achieve faster results

 - This can be combined with 5 whys and 1 H in following way

 

image.png.dfefdf3d5e82c11e816c5d3ff937c3b5.png

 

Examples where ECRS is used:

 

Example 1: Manufacturing companies use this in Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) while doing change-over to ensure less production time is wasted or there is very minimal downtime.

 

image.png.4aadb65159b8241e1e1f071daa0369ab.png

 

Example 2: Banking system has used ECRS very effectively in all the day to day transactions that a customer does with the bank.. Money withdrawal, transfer, deposit, cheque request, loan request, loan disbursal and every verification is done nowadays online

 

Example 3: Insurance sector is using ECRS very effectively in rolling out insurance policies in shortest possible time.. They have automated, simplified, rearranged and eliminated a lot of redundant steps. Now we are able to take a life insurance policy sitting at home at click of few buttons.. 

Same is the case with claim intimation or hospitalization request. It is done with the use of apps and all the parties get relevant information from time to time

 

Example 4Airline industry is US and other leading countries are already using ECRS effectively.. Now in India as well it has started to a great extent.

1. Seat Selection

2. Getting boarding pass

3. Adding baggage and getting baggage tag.

All this is done via self check-in Kiosks

 

Example 5: Ecommerce Industry has been using ECRS very effectively..

1. Product selection and Quantity

2. Product order

3. Address selection

4. Payment

5. Feedback capturing

 

All these are simplified or done it such a way that customer is able to do these steps at any point of the day and at ease using easy to use apps and their features

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ECRS method for Process Improvement

ECRS stands for Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange, and Simplify. This is a Lean technique used for removing wasteful steps in manufacturing processes or even office procedures. This can be better put together with a value stream map as well to identify necessary and complex steps within production lines. While first implementing ECRS, complex and time-consuming tasks are reviewed with the goal of successfully applying any one or all of the ECRS Strategies acronym. The end result is always aimed to streamline any process for workers and create a more efficient business as a whole. The four methods are:

  1. Eliminate – Identify the steps in a process that can be eliminated without decreasing production value. Ask questions such as:
    • Can we eliminate the root cause?
    • What is the problem with this situation currently?
    • Do we need a new process?
  2. Combine – If nothing can be eliminated, see if any steps can be combined. Ask questions such as:
    • Can the same person do both steps?
    • Can we merge this step with another?
  3. Rearrange – Rearranging steps may help in making the process work faster, easier, or safer. Ask questions such as:
    • Is this the best sequence of progression?
    • Can we rearrange the process steps, process flow, or training?
  4. Simplify – Simplifying steps can make complicated tasks much easier to understand. For example, by providing visual aid or better equipment, process can be simplified. Simplifying a process helps in improving completion times and improve accuracy. Ask questions such as:
    • Why do we need this detail?
    • What is the objective of the process?
    • How do others do it?

The ECRS Lean technique helps in faster implementing application of new ideas after conducting brainstorming meetings for potential improvement opportunities with those who perform the task. This happens most of the time, newly designed or newly processes set don’t require money to be spent, it just requires restructuring and making improvements upon old procedures. The major advantage of ECRS is implementation, if something is not working in a planned manner it can be changed without overspending of money and resources on an unproven solution.

When to use ECRS Technique

o    When we need Immediate Improvements

o    To produce quick practical ideas to make the process lean

Variations

o    Supports PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)

o    Can be done in templated form way, combining with 5W, 1H

o    Easiest way for Process Map Analysis

 

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How to do ECRS

·         Do it with the "doers" , it’s a lean technique

·         Draw the process map and write the every process steps

·         the steps should be mentioned in detail till the end - lower level ( should be "go to the printer" "get print out" and NOT just print)

·         Write any known information/data on the process steps Example,

o    no of errors

o    Amount of time to the activity

o    Show hand offs

o    Elapsed time : Difference between the amount of time elapsed between hand over and take over

o    mark rework loops

o    An optional or Alternate step should also be mentioned

After the above steps, we should start asking questions

·         Eliminate - what if we don't do this step in an intended manner, does this step add any value . Example, instead of mentioning the printing and scanning step, can we directly turn it to PDF 

·         Combine - which steps can be combined to be identified

·         Rearrange – which way the work to be performed in the best sequence

·         Simplify - why do we need this detail, is this best way to do it Example, can we create a macro , a calculator , can we automate this

·         Once we are done with the above exercise mentioned – we should go out on the floor and start implementing it 

 

 

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ECRS is a lean method / approach for process activity optimization, and if use this by keeping 7 types of waste in mind and combination with other efforts such SMED, 5WHY´s or 5S it will be a wonderful tool to implement. For clear understanding we can use the other lean manufacturing tools such as VSM (Value stream mapping) to identify the steps which can be filtered for ECRS scope.

 

ECRS, stands for :

·         Eliminate

·         Combine

·         Rearrange

·         Simplify

 

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1.       Eliminate – Here, it’s important to identify the steps that can be quickly eliminated or not adding any value to the end output or kind of Non Value added in nature. Usually elimination is done for the steps that results in a cost. Overheads, reworks, material costs, etc. are possible targets for elimination. The critical requirement of elimination is to obtain same process performance with an improved efficiency. Questions asked in elimination step :

 

·         What is the possibility to eliminate root cause/ basic cause?

·         What is the importance of this step?

 

2.       Combine - When work cannot be completely eliminated, then try to combine them. Here, see if two steps can be merged together and made as one step in place of two OR if any one person can do both the steps in place of 2 persons doing 2 different steps. Though it is efficient to break down a process into the simple operations; excessive handling of documented information, materials, tools and equipment may add to more time to be spent in maintaining the same. Such situations can be identified and improved by simply combining two or more steps. So when analyzing ECRS, team must evaluate possibilities to combine process steps as relevant. Questions used in Combine step :

 

·         Is there any possibility to combining this step with other steps?

·         Can someone else can do this step ?

·         Can the same person/ same machine do several steps in operations ?

 

3.       Rearrange – Here, see if we can change the order of the steps to make the overall process more efficient. Rearrange is the least feasible option in real world scenarios of applying ECRS to process improvements, due to initial process flow design analysis in PDCA cycle designing stage. Questions used in rearrange step :

·         What is the possibility to re-arrange this step in the process ?

·         What is the possibility to re-arrange process flow from the current state ?

 

4.       Simplify – The Golden rule here regardless of the situation is to simplify the flow anyhow. Usually, we want to Eliminate first but, if not, then Combine, Rearrange, and Simplify will be really helpful. After the steps of Elimination, Combining, Rearranging are done, the step Simplify is taken up. Here, the over-all process level issues are examined first and then the detail of the operation is studied. Questions used in simplify step :

 

·         What is the possibility to make this step simple ?

·         What is the requirement of collected information from this step?

·         How do others do this step?

·         How will a layman look at this step ?

 

Lets see a real life examples of ECRS  : How these 4 steps are covered in Telecom Revolution (Landline to Basic Mobiles to Android Mobiles) :

 

Eliminate : Mobile phones have eliminated several old items from our day to day life e.g. Camera, Wrist watches, Alarm Clocks, Calendar, Diary etc.

Combine : In mobile phones, there are lot of places where in several activities which are combined under 1 utility e.g. Clock Utility. Here, Alarm, Stopwatch, Timer and Clock functions are combined under this particular app.

Rearrange : In earlier cell phones, when you were changing your phone you have to manually transfer your data / contacts but now there are apps available which can copy data as is from your current phone to new phone and create a mirror image of your data . So this step of data transfer is rearranged / redesigned. Also in earlier phones there was no favorites / option to add frequently used apps on home page and with the passage of time those things have been re imagined and rearranged.

Simplify : Usage of dictionary and Auto-suggest of words has made the typing activity more simpler than it was before.

 

Few Examples from Different Sectors / Companies using this approach :

 

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Q 384. What is the ECRS method for process improvement? Explain with examples.

Answer :

What is ECRS:

ECRS is one of the easiest problem solving skill or approach which supports to PDCA. It is one of the lean improvement methods too.

ECRS stands for Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange and Simplify. Intention behind using the ECRS is to lean the process by identifying the waste reduction opportunities by asking right ECRS questions.

 

When to use ECRS:

  • Need immediate improvements
  • To get quick practical ideas to lean the process
  • Opportunity to combine this approach with others like PDCA & 5W for improvement ideas

How to use ECRS:

1.     Define the right project team

2.     Include doers and SMEs as it’s a lean technique

3.     Draw the process map on white board

4.     Process steps at minute level

5.     Make the process data centric like

  • # of errors / defects
  • # of people involved
  • Time in minutes or hours at each step
  • Time between hand over and take over
  • Specific mark the process loops

6.     Ask specific relevant questions on ECRS approach like

  • Eliminate – if we don’t do this step than what will be the positive and negative impact
  • Combine – what all steps we can combine together
  • Rearrange – The current sequence of processing steps is right or can be changed
  • Simplify – find out any other alternate or easiest way of doing it by using any macro, tool, tracker or streamlining the process

7.     Once all the opportunities are identified than validate and implement the solutions

 

Most of the companies follow the ECRS worksheet template and it is useful as well. Following is the snapshot for same.

image.thumb.png.3b9672a94057ecc61c768ae450e9e52e.png

 

Also there are few basic questions those can be asked while working ECRS exercise under each component:

image.png.4b6ffb413ab61d9e80e3dec4972023c2.png

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What is ECRS ?

 

ECRS expanded form is Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange and Simplify. ECRS is one among the Lean process improvement methodology which uses special methods to achieve process activity optimization.

image.png.32039f3e86679cdf518c9a2ffd4a0a8e.png

What are the ECRS methods with examples?

 

Look at the process map and apply any of the methods on each step by asking relevant questions

 

1)    Eliminate – Check for any process step that can be quickly eliminated without affecting the end desired output.

Questions to be asked: Does this step add value to the process? If answer is “no”, this step is highly wanted step that should be eliminated

Examples: Printing Process – Can we avoid taking printout? by working directly on the input which is received in .pdf file or use a dual monitor to look at the details.

 

2)    Combine - When Eliminate method cannot be applied, then try to find the process steps that can be combined.

Questions to be asked: Who does this? Where it is done? and When it is performed?

Examples: Document Verification ProcessProcessor A collects the documents from customer and uploads into a system. Then Processor B downloads, verifies, and provides comment if there is any discrepancy. Here we can check whether we can skill the Processor A to perform the verification steps also. By combining the steps, Processor A will receive documents from customer, verifies and then uploads the document in system.

 

3)    Rearrange – Check for the process steps that can be rearranged which will save time or cost or improve quality

Questions to be asked: Can we change the sequence of the steps?

Examples: Loan Application Process – Processor A collect documents from customer, does the Data Entry on the Loan Application and then verifies the completeness of documents. If there is any doc deficiency, Processor A puts the application on-hold, contact customer and collects required docs. Here we can change the sequence and see the effectiveness of the process. First collect documents from the customer, verifies the completeness of documents and does the data entry in the Loan Application. This way Processor A can avoid filling the Loan Application if the customer has not provided all documents.

 

4)    Simplify – Last but not the least, this is an easy method to simplify the process steps by either breaking them to smaller process steps

Questions to be asked: What is the best way to do?

Examples: Reconciliation process – In place of manual preparation of reconciliation, we can create a Macro which will avoid errors and save time.

 

 Remember the thumb rule is to make the process Simple and Easy to learn and execute. Hence, prepare a Detailed Process Map, discuss, and review each process steps that can be Eliminated, if not, then Combined, Rearranged, and Simplified.

 

Once we are done with this workout – go out on the process floor and implement it.

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ECRS Definition :-  

ECRS method of process improvement can be expanded as Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange & Simplify, it is one of the Lean method of process improvement.

The main idea is to look at the process and ask all relevant ECRS questions & then execute to remove/reduce waste.

 

Questions asked in each steps

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ECRS Process Steps

  • Eliminate :- In this step identify the steps that can be quickly eliminated ( Elimination of non-value added activity).
  • Combine :-  In this step if we see work or task cannot be eliminated, then we seek to combine them.
  • Rearrange :- In this step we change the sequence or rearranged of work.
  • Simplify :-  In this step try to simplify the work or task.

  

When to use ECRS

  • When immediate need of improvements.
  • When we need to produce quick practical ideas to make the process lean.
  • It can be combined with many other techniques to come up with improvement ideas and quick solution.

 

Sample Example to cover above steps

 

 

Cycle time reduction in production & Quality Checking team

#

Improvement Ideas

Eliminate

Combine

Rearrange

Simplify

1

Identify repetitive task ( Downloading material from same portal multiple time)

X

 

 

 

2

Task planning (Common project tracker file)

 

X

 

 

3

 Parallel execution ( Instead of complete file for QA send in batches)

 

 

X

 

4

QA Checklist,
Production Checklist,
Communication

 

 

 

X

 

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ECRS Method for Process Improvement.


ECRS is an acronym for Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange & Simplify. It is one of the lean tools for removal of waste by examining the process by asking questions related to ECRS. ECRS is generally used when there is a need for immediate improvements to make a process lean through quick and practical solutions. One of the good features of ECRS is that it can be combined with other tools and techniques. ECRS is generally used when there is a need for immediate improvements with quick practical ideas to make the process lean. One of the benefits of ECRS is that it can be used with other techniques to obtain improvement ideas.


An important point to remember is that ECRS is a lean technique that is to be rapidly executed. It works best when one has control over its implementation, requires no additional resources such as money, material or manpower, a project that can be executed immediately and is done with the team that is actually involved in the process.
Before doing the ECRS one must study the process and draw a process map or write down the detailed process steps instead of just a high-level process map. One should include as much information along with each process step such as the time of each activity, the number of errors, hand offs, along with the time taken to hand-over and take-over, rework loops etc. After making the detailed process map, the ECRS questions need to be asked

 

Eliminate – Eliminating a step is the best option and the top priority step as it would give the best results. The questions to be asked are - does this step add value, what would be the consequences of not doing this step, is this step essential, what is the root cause and can we eliminate it, is this step a value added or a non-value step which may be required such as a regulatory step, could this step be automated, could this step be included in some other tasks?


Combine – If we are not able to eliminate the step we need to see if the step can be combined with some other step. We need to study which steps could be combined to add value. The ECRS questions to be asked at this stage would include questions such as could this step be combined with some other step, could this step be combined with a step in an alternate task, could the same person or equipment do both the steps, would an approval be required, and could it be combined with some other approvals?


Rearrange – The next thing to do is to see if it is possible to rearrange the steps in the best possible sequence in order to eliminate waste such as motion. The ECRS questions to be asked at this stage could include amongst others - is it possible to rearrange the process step or the process flow, could we rearrange the steps in which the training for this step is done, could we rearrange the approval/inspection process?

 

Simplify – The final step in the process is to simplify the entire process. The ECRS questions that may be asked at this stage could include, could we look at this step through the eyes of a layman, would there be anybody else doing this step in a simpler manner, would automation of this system simplify it, does the person doing this task have the right skill set, could the objective of this step or process be met in a simpler manner, does the complexity of this step change or how could we reduce the complexity and simplify the step?


Simple Practical Applications of ECRS
Whilst one would generally associate the ECRS process in one’s work place or in a production/service setting, ECRS finds excellent application in day-to-day task at home. A good day to day and practical application of ECRS could be in the kitchen, or while doing various tasks at home, or while going out shopping.

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A lot of brilliant examples have been quoted by the participants. Answers by Shrikant and Rahul are a must read to get a perspective of the widespread application of this simple tool. However, one answer explains ECRS along with simple yet apt examples is from Johanan. Therefore, his answer has been selected as the winner!

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