09 Aug Efficiency for performance
It’s obvious, isn’t it? – Why we miss opportunities for operational efficiency
I heard a story recently which amused and concerned me in equal measure. It relates to a new recruit in a London factory during the 1970’s. The recruit, let’s call them Pete started on the production line and began to learn the ropes. The job was tough, but there was a certain camaraderie and Pete was pleased to join the working masses.
One day Pete observed one of the established hands, let’s call him Eric completing some paperwork. At the end of the shift Eric took a form and ticked a box, before handing it into the office. Over the coming days Pete observed Eric filling out this form, so he asked him what was it for?
Eric showed him the form and it had a box with ‘NAR’ written in. Eric always ticked NAR and handed it in when he finished work. Puzzled, Pete asked what was it for? Eric shrugged and said when he started in the early 1950’s he had been shown the process and asked to carry it out as part of his role. So, at the end of the shift Eric always filled out the form, ticked NAR and handed it into the office.
Sometime later a manufacturing specialist came into the business, let’s call him Derek and started reviewing things. As part of this Derek asked Eric and Pete what the NAR form as for. He received the same answers. Derek assumed that the form had some value for the production process, but after digging could see no value. Eventually Derek talked to one of the longest survey workers, now in the workshop, let’s call him Wilf.
Wilf reminisced about working in the factory during the second world war. He recalled that the factory was badly affected by ariel bombing. Production was halted and so output often suffered. To counter this affect a form was introduced which reported when a shift was not affected by an air raid to keep the Ministry of Supply happy. Yes, that was it remembered Wilf there was a form you had to fill out that said ‘No Air Raid,’ or ‘NAR’ for short and hand it at the end of the shift to the office.
Derek nearly fell over. Quickly recommending that The ‘NAR’ process be removed. But how often does this happen? Carrying on with a step and not considering why?
It sounds obvious. But operational efficiency often ignores the obvious because, well people think these things are obvious! By thinking things are obvious we miss precious value. Operational efficiency should have at its heart.
- Identifying influences, parameters and variables in resource use
- Investigating differences between specified ‘v’ actual resource use
- Looking behind the data and information for cause and effect.
Querying, asking questions, demonstrating curiosity, clarifying. For example.
- Why do we use that type of filter?
- What setting is that machine on?
- Who specified that handling equipment?
- Where does that product go from here?
By developing the skills of critical thinking, lateral thinking and problem solving and introducing them to manufacturing teams in conjunction with robust systems performance of those teams is raised. At present we are using resources we don’t need to and that is costing us money.
In-fact a recent study involving Harvard University demonstrated there was a 12% increase in productivity when production workers were trained in skills like problem solving and communication. (1)
In a value-added manufacturing environment, there is a premium on what role/task humans undertake. Going forward the focus is evolving to using creativity and thinking skills in conjunction with modern technology and technical skills. This is an opportunity to raise efficiency further, which is often dismissed as a nice to have. If any business is sitting on potential and under-utilised resource, it is a waste. Waste costs money.
At Sara Penrose Ltd we work with manufacturing business to optimise their performance by looking at the capabilities of their teams. Developing and equipping their teams with the skills to transform performance, in for example operational – efficiency. https://sarapenrose.co.uk/efficiency/ In an ever-changing world the need for more agility and customer focus is driving this demand. This is underlined by a survey from consultants PWC where only 41% of employees in the UK believe employers are providing them with the skills they needed for work in the future. (2)
Industry is increasing recognising the value of these skills to boost operational efficiency. The West of England Combined Authority – Employment and Skills Plan states.
‘’Local survey data found that the top 5 most important skills needed within a business were: communication, team working, customer service, problem solving and numeracy and analytica.’’ (3)
Let us transform the performance of your business to achieve success in raising operational efficiency. We provide a free one-hour consultation to get understand your business objectives and how we can help. http://www.sarapenrose.co.uk
- University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Shahi Exports/Harvard University 2017 – Soft skills training boosts productivity
- The West of England Combined Authority – Employment and Skills Plan – 2022.
Image – Carlos Aranda