Competition remains fierce among companies across all industries. Though many factors influence an organization’s ability to pivot, disrupt, and lead, efficiency stands out as a must-have element to reduce costs and improve operations and service.
When a business runs efficiently, people spend less time on unproductive tasks and more time fulfilling high-level assignments. This, in turn, leads employees to feel less stressed and more empowered because they’re not trying to keep up with exasperatingly long to-do lists. Efficiency typically equates to more money in the bank because suboptimized processes lead to costly lag times.
Here’s the biggest hitch, though: Greater efficiency doesn’t appear overnight or without planning. If you’re forecasting for 2020 and wondering how to take your efficiency levels up a notch, try these strategies.
Boosting efficiency next year requires some planning before this current year ends.
1. Streamline your tech toolbox.
Technology can both help and hinder operational processes, so carefully evaluate each piece of tech in your company. Your tech toolbox includes everything from the apps your team uses to communicate and collaborate, such as Slack or Dropbox, to the software employees use to perform discrete work tasks. As you evaluate your technology, consider your employees’ workday and your customer’s journey. Poll your team members to get their feedback on current systems and better identify technology that isn’t often used. Upon reviewing your tech, you may discover you have too many applications performing redundant tasks. Removing one or more could minimize handoffs and reduce support costs.
You may need to rediscover what each tech tool can—and can’t—do. Many software solutions allow you to automate certain jobs, such as scheduling social media posts or team meetings, freeing workers to concentrate on higher-level assignments that require a human touch.
On the other hand, you may have tech in your workplace with incompatible interfaces. When employees are forced to move from one unintegrated system to another, inefficiencies and errors are bound to occur. Do you have legacy software that can’t “talk” to other platforms? You may need to invest in a new suite of solutions that communicate with ease to improve your efficiency.
2. Improve your warehouse management.
For many enterprises, the warehouse is the center of the company. When your operations there are efficient, your company is better able to keep customers happy, whereas warehouse inefficiencies can lead to losses and harm your credibility. There are myriad tech solutions that can boost the efficiency of your warehouse. “Some of the largest brands in the world, like Amazon, have acquired robotics firms like Kiva Systems and automated a great deal of their warehouse management, while growing jobs, increasing efficiency and faster delivery times with fewer shipping errors,” notes Ali Raza, founder and CEO of ThroughPut Inc. By using robots to transport pallets across its warehouses, the e-commerce giant can save its human workers time and physical strain without replacing them.
If robots are too big a step for your company, consider real-time location systems, which use geolocation technology to track the locations of objects in real time. You can attach RTLS tags to things and people, helping you find what (and whom) you need in your warehouse more quickly. A strong warehouse management system will flag potential errors and recommend a plan for ongoing upkeep to ensure your warehouse stays organized. Having your team take 10 minutes a day to check for and fix minor errors is a far better alternative than spending two hours a day tracking down products that have been mislabeled or misplaced.
3. Remove or reduce predictable workflow interruptions.
It’s tough to operate efficiently if you and your team are constantly distracted. Researchers have suggested that it takes 23 minutes and 15 second to recover from an unexpected interruption. When disturbances like unscheduled meetings and nagging email alerts run amok, they chew away at productivity. Speak with your team members about their preferred methods of halting such frustrating intrusions. Some business leaders recommend blocking off time on employee calendars for focused work, putting devices into airplane mode, and even working from home when projects require a laser focus.
Teach everyone on your team that it’s OK to carve out do-not-disturb time regularly to tackle their core duties. Edward G. Brown, an efficiency and workflow consultant to financial firms, recommends establishing mutual blocks of focused work time for your team, a concept he dubs Time Locks. “Once we trained people how to ask for Time Locks, how to set them up, and how to honor them, we found not only qualitative improvements in workers, but quantitatively, one of our clients said that, if they were conservative, they estimated personal productivity shot up 40 to 60 percent, maybe more,” he reports.
Before enjoying a well-deserved glass of eggnog at your end-of-year holiday party or scheduling some late-December vacation days, take some time to plan out steps for a more efficient new year. That way, your team can hit the ground running Jan. 2, ready to handle whatever comes its way.