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Engineers' Angle | Increasing productivity with business process re-engineering tool

Published:Sunday | July 21, 2019 | 12:00 AMJunior Bennett/Contributor
Business Process Reengineering
Junior Bennett

Is the concept of Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) a new phenomenon? BPR is not a new concept.

Michael Hammer wrote an article titled ‘Re-engineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate’, in the 1990 Harvard Business Review Journal that provided a practical perspective on BPR.

Michael explained that by simply using “technology to mechanise old ways of doing business” have only “delivered disappointing results”. He further stated that “speeding up those processes cannot address their fundamental performance deficiencies”.

For Jamaica to have a drastic improvement in productivity in the medium term, both public and private sector businesses need to place BPR as a priority in their strategic planning. This productivity improvement tool is not a quick-fix method but a strategic tool that will yield increases in profit and overall business performance.

On November 11, 2018, The Gleaner published an article titled ‘Inefficient processes choking profits’ contributed by Yaneek Page. In the article, Yaneek stated that the “process for replacing lost motor vehicle licence plates is inefficient, repetitive, and urgently in need of re-engineering”.


What is re-engineering, or rather business process re-engineering? The online business dictionary on defines BPR as a “Thorough rethinking of all business processes, job definitions, management systems, organisational structure, work flow, and underlying assumptions and beliefs.” The major aim of BPR “is to break away from old ways of working, and effect radical (not incremental) redesign of processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical areas through the in-depth use of information technology.”


The benefits include: greater profitability, more competitiveness, lower operating cost, lower cycle time, better service quality, and stronger team. In one of the ‘Eight Benefits of Re-engineering of a Business Process’, written by Kalpana R shared on the website, Kalpana explained that a “major accomplishment of the re-engineering effort is the change that occurs in the corporate culture” where “workers at all levels are encouraged to make suggestions for improvement and to believe that management will listen to what they have to say”.


Anna Assad wrote an article titled ‘The Disadvantages & Advantages of BPR’ on the website She pointed out the disadvantages that can affect the outcome of a BPR. These include: “BPR typically requires an investment” in resources and training and can be “a costly option for companies looking to cut expenses immediately”. Some of the employees “may not adapt to the BPR changes”, while “those assigned new responsibilities can become overwhelmed”. Some workers may no longer be needed “if their primary function is eliminated as part of a process overhaul”.


The principles of re-engineering, according to Michael Hammer, includes organising around outcomes, not tasks; involving those who use the output of the process in the analysis; letting the department that produces information process it as well; coordinating and linking parallel activities while they are in process rather than when they are completed; empowering the persons who perform the work to make decisions; and capturing information once and at the source.


1. Identify the process to conduct the BPR. This process could be expensive, involves multiple steps, several persons, cut across several departments, generate large volume of waste or received the most complains.

2. Determine “what the process is trying to accomplish”, according to Michael Hammer. What is the objective, outcome or deliverable?

3. Formulate a team of about seven persons or fewer, depending on the type of process. More persons can be involved, based on their role, knowledge, responsibility or influence. Notwithstanding, most of the members should have direct involvement in the execution of the process.

4. Document the process. By simply documenting the process, you have accomplished 10 to 20 per cent of your productivity improvement target. No process should be changed without properly documenting the existing process through a consultative process that involves the relevant stakeholders.

5. Analyse the existing process systematically and carefully to identify unnecessary steps and non-value-added activities. Examine the existing process and challenge the sequence, the material, the tools and method of performing the task.

6. Propose a new system and outline the potential improvements, the implications and the cost for implementation.

7. Clearly identify the resources and training required to guarantee success. The training should include strategies for breaking down potential cultural barriers and resistance to change.

For Jamaica to guarantee improvement in productivity, which is a requirement for increasing gross domestic product, the government and private sector need to conduct BPR for critical processes, both in the goods producing and service sectors.

- Junior A Bennett, PE, CMfgE, CMfgT is a lecturer in industrial engineering at the University of Technology, Jamaica. Email feedback to