Undertaking productivity reviews to identify efficiency issues and quantify opportunities for improvement are important. We recommend using a range of work-study and observational techniques that provide diagnostic insights supported by process deep dives.
Work-study options include detailed analysis of a process to measure how long each individual stage takes, giving valuable insights on where to focus to speed up the process and to enable resource planning based on accurate workload calculations. A diagnostic efficiency study can look at teams from warehousing to admin and sales to quantify what proportion of time is spent adding value, undertaking essential tasks and how much time is lost.
We’ve identified the top five efficiency issues:
1. Paper-based processes don’t need measurement to spot them. Paper is slower, less efficient and creates filing and storage requirements compared to digital equivalents. At some stage, paper interfaces with a system and there is a need for data input into an accounting system. Look out for paper in your business and review options to eliminate it and increase your efficiency.
2. Moving to systems from paper doesn’t always mean things run smoothly. Time can be lost due to system delays. This downtime is created when systems don’t work as quickly as the human using them. Typical causes of delays are slow systems and connections that mean colleagues watch the screen loading graphics rather than completing their tasks. Work Studies have found that some contact center teams become so accustomed to working around their slow systems that they instinctively timed their general chat during the call with the delays. Speeding things up would mean a quicker call for the customer and more calls per hour handled by an agent.
Another common system delay issue is dual entry of data as colleagues move between systems that are not integrated at the right points. Colleagues working in multiple systems work most efficiently with dual monitors. Good workstation set up helps too – uncomfortable chairs, missing wrist supports, and monitors at the wrong height are all factors that can impact efficiency.
3. Physical work lends itself more easily to ongoing output measure and monitoring, for example, the number of delivery units handled, or widgets manufactured per hour. Office based activity can be harder to get to grips on and efficiency studies provide a measure of how much time is spent on essential activities and time lost. We’ve worked with a client who found that team leaders in their owned and operated customer services teams spent more time coaching colleagues than their peers in the franchised parts of their operation, which explained the variance in customer experience measurement and business outcomes. Another client found a surprisingly high proportion of time spent on internal emails, calls, and meetings. The route cause was a mix of unclear accountabilities and incomplete customer records that required supporting communication.
Additionally, there was a delay in response times as offices in different parts of the world shut down overnight. We recommended a slight shift in office working hours to give more overlap time between markets and an option to move an offshore support team to mirror the working hours of the team they support. Emails, calls, and meetings can add significant value, yet in many businesess, email and call volume is cited as a significant barrier to getting work done. Efficiency study measures the issue and the opportunity size.
4. Efficiency analysis looks at resource versus demand and shows where a demand peak overwhelms available resources, which in some businesses creates potential lost sales. The opposite of this is where teams are not fully occupied, and work-study observations show a slowdown in the pace of work and increased downtime in ad hoc breaks. We’ve often observed significant variance in downtime across teams within the same business and multi-skilling can help create a more flexible team that can be deployed to better match changing demand. Workload models that calculate how much resource is needed in a team help businesses size their teams accurately and create a global benchmark to eliminate variance.
5. Businesses that move stock have two common efficiency issues. The first is when the volume of stock held overwhelms the storage space it creates inefficiency. Stock needs to be held in an organized way so it can be accessed easily. Too often we see stock stacked behind other lines, making it difficult to find and only accessible if other stock is first moved. And stock in multiple locations, unless all accurately logged in a stock management system, is a recipe for wasted time trying to find stock. To maximize efficiency, measure how many times stock is handled as it goes through your operation. Eliminating unnecessary stock handling will improve productivity and reduce handling costs.
Article by Simon Hedaux, founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a world-leading productivity partner that helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity, and optimize budgets.