Organizations with a lean-and-mean approach to business realize that cutting down on internal waste is almost as important as cultivating a healthy revenue stream. Waste is any resource or activity that doesn’t add value to the end product. Though you may think things are running smoothly, you might be surprised at just how many things in your company you might be squandering funds on. Here are a few ways to identify and reduce waste in the workplace so that you can have more resources to allocate to what really matters: closing sales and thriving as a business.
Stay Connected to Your Work Force
Sure, it’s important to be able to delegate, but a good manager knows that they need to be connected with their employees and the daily workflow. By doing so, you’re better able to pinpoint where problems may occur. You can also assist employees by clearly outlining their expectations and coaching them through any unfamiliar tasks. By spending less time in your corner office and more time on the front lines observing how the job’s being done, managers will be able to correct any errors faster and without any heavy-duty disruptions in workflow. Not only will this save your company time, but your workforce will feel more valued and connected with management.
In order to assess exactly where time and resources are being wasted, record everything that goes into a product or service. This can include the number of personnel, number of hours, costs of parts and supplies and so on. Keep track of the progress you’re making on projects and identify any inconsistencies. For example, if one of your teams is dedicating more labor to a project than another, see whether the teams can support one another or can provide advice on how to get the job done faster. If material costs for one team spike, check to see if the parts are defective or if better procurement practices are necessary. Over time, this detailed documentation will provide a clear picture of what’s going on and help you to identify and eliminate any problem areas.
Identify the DOWNTIME Culprits
A wasteful workforce is scattered and disoriented, while a good organization is streamlined and finely-tuned to meet any challenge or opportunity. The difference between these two work environments, according to organization consultants at GoLeanSigma, are eight factors that they cleverly present in a DOWNTIME acronym:
- D: Defects (Products that need to be reworked or scrapped)
- O: Overproduction (Excess production or production before it’s needed)
- W: Waiting (Wasted time waiting for the next step in a process)
- N: Non-utilized talent (Under-utilizing people’s talents, skills or knowledge)
- T: Transportation (Unnecessary movement of product or materials)
- I: Inventory (Excess products and materials not being processed)
- M: Motion (Unnecessary movements by people e.g.: walking, searching for items)
- E: Extra-Processing (More work or quality than is required by the customer)
When troubleshooting problem areas or looking for ways to improve the workflow, focus on these common contributors to waste. Eliminating them will support a more streamlined and efficient environment.
Consider Value Stream Mapping
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a flowchart technique used by managers to get a big-picture analysis of all the materials and labor going into a product. It’s designed to delineate between elements that contribute to a product’s value and those that don’t. Whether it be excess hours or defective machinery, most businesses are using this method to identify areas that require correction.
Adopt Better Organizational Methods
Simply organizing and maintaining your equipment more carefully will help you reduce waste. To weed out all those wasteful elements, first sort, and separate useful materials and equipment from items that are not being used. Then, clean the workspace or storage area and arrange the useful items according to the frequency of use. This way, your staff won’t constantly be searching for often-used supplies. It’s also important to maintain and regularly inspect your equipment and to standardize the procedures for using it. By training your staff to properly use and care for your equipment, and by eliminating unnecessary supplies, you’ll see less waste in the future.
Educate Everyone Involved
Don’t put the onus of waste reduction solely on your own shoulders. Involve your team in the processes and train them to cut down on waste so they can make recommendations in their work. After all, they’re the ones in the trenches meaning they may be better able to identify workplace waste. Consider not only giving them the right methods and tips, but also by introducing an element of accountability that employees are expected to contribute to those streamlined objectives.
While some of these methods can be introduced easily and others may involve a temporary interruption in company operations, all of them can contribute towards a less wasteful work environment. Consider how your internal processes can be more streamlined and see just how much time and money you can save with a change in attitude and a renewed focus on efficiency.
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