Businesses need to create and use effective routines. When you boil down your factories’ activities you can find a simple series of activities that need to be completed on a daily, or weekly, basis. Businesses that are out of control find themselves not doing the things that they know they should be doing. The first day is OK as nothing bad has happened. Extend this forward a week or two and the lack of proper activity starts to have a knock on effect. The key is to make the right activities part of the normal course of action.
One factory that I worked with had a purchasing team that didn't execute their daily activities each day. Problems would ‘come out of the blue’ every few weeks. Suppliers had to be chased to prevent line stoppages and a frenzy of activity would be seen by all. Their problem was that they hadn't decided how to handle their key activities each and every day, so they didn't. Rather than correct this situation they worked ineffectively for a week or two and then frantically coped with the subsequent explosion in the supply chain. We developed some efficient ways of coping with the daily activities and their problems went away. It’s not hard, it sometimes just needs a bit of time to step back and look at the issues.
- If you haven’t already mapped out your process steps then do it. Seeing it represented visually can give you an immediate boost in performance if the process steps aren't in an optimal sequence.
- From the map identify the key points in the process where activities need to be undertaken daily. List these points out against the departments that are responsible.
- Create a loose timetable of activities (usually daily activities and those taking place once or twice a week). Find ways to build these routine activities into other routines to make adopting them easier.
- Keep an eye on the routines over the next few weeks. The next idea will help, but you may need to provide a lot of support to make the routines turn into habits.
Author of 'Business Process Re-Engineering', a practical plan to improve business performance.