Productivity in the workplace has decreased by almost 2% in the last two years. Now that may not seem like a large sum to you, but it should definitely be enough to raise your pulse for one simple reason: productivity should be increasing not decreasing. Improving your business operations and ensuring your company is becoming more streamlined are two responsibilities that fall within the bell curve of you being the business leader.
The good news is, you only have two options when it comes to ramping up the rate of productivity:
Extend office hours or,
Get people to work smarter.
The second option is definitely the more attractive. The big question is, how do you do this? Well, being as awesome as we are, we have come up with a few suggestions that are well worth trialling and testing within your business because they are all known to increase productivity.
RescueTime is a tool that is specifically designed to help people track how much time they are spending on certain tasks. It could be social media, emailing, word processing or whatever. By using this and having your employees see how much time they are putting where they can then better allocate their every minute.
A new rule that you should definitely introduce to your business — effective immediately — is this the two-minute rule. It’s simple and it works. If your employees come across a task that can be done in two-minutes then they should do it without hesitation. Striking while the iron is hot is so much more effective than coming back to it later, especially with small tasks like this.
From now on all of your internal meetings should be conducted on your feet. That’s right. There are so many reasons for this but the most important ones are to do with group performance improving and time being used in a much more effective way. We all know how guilty internal meetings are for using up resources, so anything that can improve this is worth doing.
Outsourcing has long been hailed as one of the most effective approaches of boosting a company’s productivity. It could be outsourcing your IT support services, your bookkeeping needs, your graphic design department or anything else that would be better off being done on a task by task basis or by a professional outfit that can dedicate all their time to this need. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of squeezing more tasks out of each employee in order to make them better value but, more often than not, you will end up hurting their productivity by doing this.
Now, this may sound like the most counterproductive thing anyone could have said to you, but we can ensure you that it works. That’s because taking a break is known to boost your concentration, which is a good thing. To put it another way, non-stop working will force your employee’s productivity to steadily decline. So, yeah, encourage breaks and, better yet, encourage exercise breaks to get their blood flowing again.
A study in 2015 showed that reputational risks were the top concern for businesses. Customer satisfaction and profits are both harmed when a company gains a bad reputation, so it’s not hard to see why it’s such a major worry! Most recently we’ve seen both ride-sharing platform Uber and once notable tech giant Yahoo! plagued in controversy by a CEO stepping down and an acquisition respectively.
Reputational risk is a little like the debates surrounding climate change; we can argue about how important it is, but there’s no arguing that it is important. There are clear and present dangers to business reputations, so it’s essential that you read an article that quickly lists the most common risks to business reputations. You’re well on your way reading this article as a starting point.
A lack of understanding
Going against the codes and morals that people expect of a business is one of the most common ways in which businesses harm their own reputations. It seems fairly simple to stick to your code of ethics, right? Sure — but what if the standards to which your customers hold you is a complete unknown to you?
A lot companies aren’t aware of exactly what people expect from them. Your reputation isn’t something your construct by yourself — it’s the result of an interaction between what you do and say and what customers interpret those things to mean. Making sure you keep track of your own reputation is a vital part of this field — otherwise, you’re not as likely to know what might make your customers or business interests at large upset.
High employee turnover rate
Are employees slipping through your fingers like water or sand? Are employees coming and going at an alarming rate? There are a lot of reasons this is bad; it affects productivity, and overall employee satisfaction will take an unpleasant hit. (It also costs quite a lot — recruiting and training is hardly a cheap process!)
But it also affects something else, something that’s directly affected by the loss or productivity and employee satisfaction. You guessed it — your reputation. Managing employees well is crucial to success — as well as the upholding of a good business reputation. When people know that turnover is high, they wonder if you’re treating your employees badly. They may feel that an investment in your company wouldn’t be very ethical.
Remember back in school, where your playground enemies would spread nasty rumors about you? (Or perhaps it was you who was spreading rumours, you villain.) Many of us thought that we’d see the end of that kind of behavior by the time we grew up and entered the adult world of business.
But, as it turns out, the world of business really isn’t all that different to the playground. Competitors may be more than happy to spread around a few rumors about your company. You’ve always got to keep a close eye on your business enemies, because they’ll often look to improve their own reputation by damaging your reputation, instead of actually improving their products and services.
Social media mistakes
It’s easy to make a fool out of yourself on Facebook and Twitter. We know about this in the personal realm. But do we know what kind of reputation — damaging mistakes a business can make on social media? Check out some examples of business misbehaviour on Twitter to ensure you don’t make similar mistakes!
It’s not all that unusual for someone expanding their business into manufacturing and production to suddenly find that demands get a lot more serious. When running any other kind of business efficiency and productivity might seem like abstractions that you improve as you go along. When you’re on the production line, however, you can’t afford to let inefficient practices liner. Right from the get-go, you have to strive towards getting the greatest returns on investment as soon as possible. If you’re familiar with lean principles in manufacturing or business in general, don’t be surprised to see a few of them here. They’re still an excellent guide to improving productivity and efficiency.
Set yourself a long-term goal
The steps we’ll be mentioning here aren’t something to be slowly implemented over time. They need real work done on them, now. They need a strategy, which means you need to find the goal you’re working towards. In manufacturing, one of the best goals to work toward is overall equipment effectiveness(OEE). It looks at all the time your manufacturing equipment is working. Then it identifies how time is lost through unavoidable causes like schedule loss, as well as the very avoidable kinds of lost time like availability of resources, performance issues and time lost producing poor quality goods. This is how you measure OEE and your goal is to remove all those sources of loss so you get to a state of total effective equipment performance.
Follow the metrics
With a goal focused so much on the equipment, you also need to understand the larger concept of successful manufacturing that it plays into. You know equipment effectiveness isn’t everything, so what data should you use to communicate and understand its overarching effects? Set up a metrics table that you use to measure the impact of improving your processes. Include quality metrics, like yield and rejected products, and efficiency metrics, like throughput and capacity utilization (out of 100%, how much of your output capacity is being used at any one time?). These can help you identify more specific sources of lost ROI (return on investment).
Map out your workflow
Flow is a very important concept to any business. In manufacturing, it’s actually easier to spot most of the time. It’s as simple as creating a map of the production line in its entirety. From there, you graph out the progress of your materials as they are worked into the final product. Doing that allows you to see whether they’re taking the most efficient path or not. For instance, large distances between one process to another create lost time while you’re waiting for the goods to be transported from one area to another. You can also spot when secondary equipment that isn’t part of the main production line is obstructing that process. It can be a good idea to clear the whole floor and start planning the workflow from the start. Order the primary tools first in a way that eliminates waiting for transportation, then place the secondary equipment out-of-the-way after.
Identify and fix bottlenecks
As well as a physical map, create a process map that shows all the work being done. It will likely consist of a lot of processes leading off into different processes. Rarely is it purely linear. Those moments when it becomes linear can be the problem. Many processes leading into one means that one process could be holding up the rest of the workflow. Those are your bottlenecks and they need to be accounted for. For instance, if there’s one piece of equipment in particular that needs to be used more often before work can continue, consider increasing your inventory of that equipment. Bottlenecks don’t only happen on the factory floor, either. Your bottleneck might be that you can’t keep producing more goods because your inventory is full and you’re waiting for shipping to commence. Scaling up your shipping is the right call in that situation.
Most downtime in manufacturing is down to equipment failure. As well as frequent maintenance, you should schedule troubleshoot in any planned downtime you have. You should also be aware of any inventory needs you have in terms of replacement. If you have the right replacement parts waiting in the wings, it means less time is spent waiting for them. Most manuals for pieces of industrial equipment will tell you exactly what replacements you’re most likely to need.
Master your inventory
Just as you should know when you need to stock a few extra components in the event of equipment downtime, you should also know when not to stock extra resources. You might think bulk buying saves you effort down the line, but it could be drastically impacting your return on investment through the carrying costs of inventory. It’s best to develop a system that alerts you to inventory needs in advance but ensures you’re not bringing in too much inventory. Get to know the demand on resources involved in your processes.
Get smarter tools
You might think that using simpler tools means you’re saving money, but the truth is that any gains you make by saving on the purchase could be eclipsed by the amount of ROI lost through less efficient means. Smarter tools might cost more and require more training, but that’s because they’re sophisticated tools that can drastically improve the efficiency of the production line. If your finishing processes are proving slow, perhaps even bottlenecked production, then considering learning the news about coating equipment. If metalworking takes up most of the time on your floor, then look at CNC milling tools.
A lot of those smarter tools you can get will also be automated. We know that there’s a lot of dragging feet when it comes to moving into automation. The reduction of your dependence on human effort could indeed mean that some jobs are no longer going to be needed. But if it’s a choice between efficiency and losing employees, then know that poor efficiency will likely end up in losing a lot more people when the business is unable to meet its clients’ goals and lose a lot of custom. Look at the positives of getting automated, including mitigating the effect of labor shortages and improving the safety of workers by getting them less involved in dangerous tasks.
Invest in employees, not just equipment
As for your existing labor, one of the ways you can help them plan to avoid obsolescence is by providing the training they need to move into other roles in the business. Automated equipment will need operators and maintenance and the freeing of labor could mean you have the human capital ready to expand your operation. Don’t treat employees like they’re only good for one task. Instead, consider all the skills that could make them much more useful in their role. Better understanding the product, materials, and equipment could lead to a broad diversity of skills that gets them more engaged with the process and makes them a lot more useful to you.
Standardize absolutely everything
If you want an efficient production line, then you’re going to have to standardize all the equipment usage, inventory transportation, and maintenance. Create systems and guidelines that address every step of the workflow and the correct way to do things. This makes it a lot easier to train new employees when you have those standardized methods at your disposal. But standardization doesn’t only belong in the production line itself. It can be applied to the knowledge workers in administration and planning as well. Even more important, it should be implemented regularly in your safety practices. Getting people compliant means ensuring there’s no uneven training. Improvising your training makes it a lot easier for certain employees to miss information that others have received.
Finding the best ways to implement these strategies isn’t something you’re going to be able to do by yourself. One person can only be so creative. You need to use the mental capital as well as the labor capital that your team provides. This is one reason why more intricate, ongoing training for workers on the floor is important. They will have the hands-on experience of using equipment and resources that could spot ways of improving productivity that you haven’t considered. So, think about implementing an incentivization scheme. Offer rewards to anyone who makes recommendations that have an impact on decreasing downtime, loss through faulty goods, or improve your progress towards total effective equipment performance. Compensation is an effective reward, but so are more creative choices like flexible work choices.
Without addressing the problems of productivity in your manufacturing processes, you’re going to have a hard time keeping the costs down. You’ll be dealing with more downtime and more late orders for the clients you’re supplying. The points above aren’t a ‘done in one’ checklist. They’re the tools you use to keep the improvement continuous. Your equipment, your demands, and your clients will change. You have to keep looking over your processes and risk of loss as they change, too.
We live in a highly digital age. For businesses, one of the major advantages this has offered is the sheer amount of data that you can gather if you want to use it. Knowledge is power, as they say, and to a business it has many applications. We’re going to be looking at three ways you can use the knowledge you gather to improve your business, from its image to its operations and beyond.
Naturally, when you think of businesses in the digital age, the transformation of the marketing landscape is one of the first things you think of. But it’s not just because you can potentially reach so many more people. The knowledge you can learn with these strategies, through taking a closer look at your competition and the data you collect from your customers can help tremendously. You can learn just what the competition is using that’s most effective in the market, as well as spotting the niches they’re not focusing on where you can put your own marketing emphasis. By reviewing your own data, you can see which content and promotions are working most effectively while trimming off those that aren’t working at all.
Marketing is only one step in the life-cycle of a customer, of course. After you get their attention, you want to complete the sale. Online, particularly in ecommerce, this means taking a look at your site. Web page analytics can give you an in-depth overview of which pages your users are using most and which internal links they’re clicking. Figure out what these pages and links offer and how you can replicate that same appeal across the site. If you have a search bar in your site, then look at the queries made through that, as well. This way, you can get a direct look at exactly what your customers are looking for. It might even help you spot some ideas for products that you’re not yet providing if there’s enough of a demand for it.
A smart business doesn’t only collect information about its customers and its competition. A smart business also takes a more in-depth look inside. Productivity and efficiency are essential to the success of a business. Monitoring your employees’ productivity can help you improve it. You might think it’s about finding which employees are lazy, but most often it’s about improving the tools they use to do their job. Using data to see which tasks slow them down, then automating them or using different processes to do them quicker and establish those methods as the rule from now on. That’s called systemisation and it’s helping businesses keep running smoothly all over.
A better and bigger public image. A site that can convert a lot more customers. A team that gets more done with their working day. These are just three of the opportunities that can be capitalized on with a business that’s focused on gathering data. Don’t underestimate the impact that a closer look at the numbers can have.