It is important when you are operationally responsible for business performance that you understand that you need to boost productivity and recognise when action is needed to improve this further. Improved productivity potentially results in more cash in the company. Making drastic changes too fast though and making your company far too lean can have the opposite effect, therefore it is important to have the balance right of improving productivity without compromising things like quality or even peoples morale. Companies look at productivity sometimes as a Key Process Indicator (KPI) and use this to gauge the efficiency and lead-time of process’s or even people. Here are some different ways in which productivity could be potentially improved.
Introduce a Kanban System
This may sound like a complex phrase or system or even on occasions be linked to lean manufacturing facilities however it can be implemented in all types of environments and business’s. The concept originated in Japan and is becoming more and more common in the workplace. Most industries generally work on a push system (within the operating production system) however Kanban is known for being a pull system. Basically you manufacture what is required in line with the customer needs and this signal is pulled from the customer and signals all the way through the value stream.
Implementing this into your workplace can help with the following:
- Identifying bottlenecks – Many industries will invest a lot of effort, time and money running activities such as value stream maps to look at their process from a helicopter view and identify bottlenecks within it. This then allows you to take immediate action to resolve this which could be by reducing inspections at this point or increasing the capacity.
- Visual management – This allows you to understand the customer demand and the progress to achieve this at a glance. This will be covered more in the next section.
- Voice of Customer – The voice of your customer is really important and you only want to make them what is needed. Making more than what is required could result in waste, scrap or high inventory. With these points also come the increased risk of quality defects.
The success of a good Kanban system really relies on people engagement and ownership. If a business is to implement this then for employees this will be a completely different way of working. It is therefore important that they fully comprehend the importance of the system, why it is being implemented and what part people play in order to ensure the process is successful. There may be some resistance to change from different areas therefore expect to be able to influence with the end in mind being able to boost productivity.
Invest in a good Kanban Board
So, what is Kanban and how can it help your business? There are some really important answers to this question but it is important to point out that the overall success of a Kanban operated system relies heavily on the effectiveness of a Kanban board and the updating of it.
There are lots of different type of Kanban boards which include new technology ones visible on screens. These boards that we that we know are most effective are ticket style ones where the operational sequence is marked clearly on the board and the tickets will be moved depending on the progress of the part. Customer demand expectation of delivery dates is extremely visible on this board. There are some challenges with these types of board and if this process is to fail, it will most likely fail due to the employees or accountable people not updating this board. This goes back to the point in the first section where employee engagement is key to boost productivity. If employees that are accountable to update the board don’t, then the wrong signals can be sent and really affect the visibility and awareness of the components WIP status.
There are many companies where a good Kanban board can be purchased. Clearly there is the “Do It Yourself” option however for professionalism and effectiveness these dedicated companies will provide layouts that suit your business need.
Improve your Team Morale
Employees are the heart of any organisation and keeping them happy and engaged is key to potentially improve your areas productivity. If you have low morale in an area this can directly affect the employee efficiency and also things like absenteeism and timekeeping. Investing a little time in this area will help out productivity in the long run. Some suggestions to improve morale and boost productivity could be:
- Employee survey / suggestions – Employees love their voice to be heard and sometimes feel uncomfortable doing this directly their manager. Surveys or polls allow their voice to be heard. Be sure to act upon their suggestions and not ignore.
- Bonus schemes – If the business is performing well and the employees are contributing to this success, why not give them a bonus to feel valued.
- Appreciation – Some employees are not looking for money or rewards. Some just want to feel appreciated. Letting them know you appreciate them may sound simple but can be very effective with the employees morale.