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31 March 2016
Process Improvement

20 WAYS TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE – Balancing Capacity

Productivity means higher output using your current resources, or achieving the same level of sales with less resource.

There is nothing more frustrating and demotivating than seeing your work colleague only doing half the amount of work you’ve been given.  This happens when managers don’t know the work well enough themselves to be able to delegate it fairly and evenly amongst a team.  Mismatched work capacities also cause bottlenecks, and subsequent customer service failures if one person’s or department’s work is dependent on another person or team completing their part in the process first.

To overcome this, activity and workflows can be mapped out with approximate daily or weekly volumes, together with a time frame as to how long each task should take.  That time frame, or planning guideline time, is the pure working time if the job was carried out perfectly and as efficiently as practicable, with no problems arising.  If times are established based on how long it takes to do the job with all the problems and inefficiencies included, then you are basically planning to absorb slack or poor working practices.  These will never be ironed out, and you’ll end up recruiting too many people because the work flows were not thought through effectively in the first place.

When documenting workflows get the team involved in challenging and critiquing the processes, involving them in finding ways to make their work leaner and more efficient.  This will also gain buy in from the team, as they will have been involved themselves in designing how things are done and feel part of the success.  The workflow designs should balance the worker capacity ensuring that one person is given sufficient work to feed the next point in the process, and number of workers at each station is balanced to prevent bottlenecks.

The Welding Line – Case Study

Whilst consulting in the USA to a small robotic welding plant producing truck cabins, the main causes of low output were poor quality welding, dings and dents in the body work as the cabs came off the end of the line.  The line ran at a speed of 6 minutes per cycle, with a dozen work stations each having to weld different sections of the cab on the line and, if this didn’t require the full 6 minutes, turn to back up tasks behind the line.

Some workstations, however, were hard pushed to get all their work done in six minutes – hence the resulting rejections, whilst others had about 2-3 minutes of welding to do and would then be left waiting for the next cycle. This resulted normally in 32 – 34 cabs finally passing QC inspection by the end of the day, with many cabs having to be recycled back through the process with the consequent material wastage and rework costs.

After much observation, and consultation with the welders themselves, a simple change was suggested – obviously with much analysis and calculation – and successfully implemented.  The solution was to SLOW the line down – almost double – to 11 minutes.  The benefits of this however, allowed the operators’ workload at each station to be more evenly distributed, and each task being allocated more time to complete the work to a higher quality.  The outcome was an average of 54 cabs passing the quality inspections daily, and the company profited to the tune of US$625,000 annually as a direct result of this line rebalancing.

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My book “20 Ways to Be More Productive” offers easy tips, case studies and ways you can improve productivity and save money in every aspect of your business.