Creating Constructive Change: Efficiency


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Ef • fi • cien • cy (noun): 1. Competence: The ability to do something well or achieve a desired result without wasted energy or effort. 2. Productive use of resources: The degree to which something is done well or without wasted energy.

With the ever-increasing competitive nature of the business climate today, it is essential to squeeze every dollar out of every project undertaken. Long-term results can be achieved without having to tip over the entire shop. Little steps can reap great rewards. This column will discuss some very simple methods for becoming more efficient.

Most mold manufacturers believe that they are already as efficient as possible or that it is tough to become more efficient because they build one mold at a time. Efficiency can be adopted by any person doing any event and there will always be ways to make your operation more efficient. This is just a start and there are many more ways to achieve even better results.

To become more efficient in any area of a shop will require developing new habits and creating a disciplined process. We must adopt the premise of “Keep it Simple”. Most new initiatives fail because they have been over thought, which leads to over complicated plans. Nothing can be efficient if it’s complicated.

Communications is the beginning of where efficiencies can have an impact on a shop. It is also the area that many of the errors in a process can be tracked. If a shop documented how much of its time is used in communications, they would be shocked. With the advent of computers, we were supposed to be able to eliminate the time and accuracy issues for most of our problems in communication. Sadly, what was supposed to help us is now the curse that hurts us.

Simple discipline in how we communicate, when we communicate, along with whom we communicate is not only a prudent step in becoming more efficient, but reduces the data flow to individuals who do not need to be in the ever-growing loop of data. Data creep or too much data flow can be as crippling as too little information.

Today’s culture has conditioned people who are sitting next to each other to send an e-mail to discuss lunch plans instead of just asking each other. E-mails have become such a preferred way to communicate that they are no longer as meaningful.
In order to make e-mails more relevant you should reduce the number of people who actually receive the e-mail. Also you should not just e-mail and think that an issue is handled. E-mails should be given the same importance as printed documents and not spam. With fewer e-mails it is easier to track the ones that require follow-up.

Before a project begins it is good to identify what data is missing and to set deadlines not only for the project, but for the missing information. Usually the person who is responsible for getting you correct data is not the same person with whom you negotiated for the project, and rarely do they feel the same pressure to get you information in a timely manner.

A simple timeline that coincides with a project’s deadline can let you know when to include different people into the e-mail chain. With each new communication a simple color code will help identify that you are nearing a critical stage and that if the correct data is not received it will jeopardize the delivery. You will be amazed by this simple visual reminder.

Visual reminders will have the same impact on the shop floor. Storing things in a consistent manner will reduce the time it takes to find items, and add to more chip making. Less clutter will add to the overall efficiency of a shop. Schedule a weekly walk through the shop and look for items that can be stored in a better way and identify what seems out of place.

These are not earth-shattering revelations or drastic changes, but they are simple processes that can have a positive impact on your shop. These small, easy steps are an important piece to the puzzle of how to become more competitive.