As we start to look forward to the New Year now maybe a good time to review the established processes at work to see if tasks can be modified or eliminated altogether. Process improvement focuses on streamlining established procedures, reducing costs and improving efficiency. There are typically four ways to improve the processes at your business.
Update Your Tools and Equipment
Examine the equipment used to conduct your business along with your vendors to ensure that your business is maximizing the capital investments made and relationships fostered over the years. This includes, but is not limited to, computers, telephone systems, trucks, vans and cars, manufacturing machinery, maintenance contracts, printers and software. Older equipment malfunctions occur more often and operate less efficiently which can reduce efficiency, production and work flow. Modernizing the equipment will help mitigate down-time of equipment. Ensuring that your vendors understand how your business has evolved over the years will also allow you to be more competitive and better aligned in your marketplace. Investing in prudent capital expenditures and enhancing your partnership with your vendors will pay off if you are able to get your product to the customer more quickly at a reduced cost.
Outsource Where Possible
Outsourcing has become synonymous with job loss for the internal staff; however, outsourcing means to transfer part of what is being done in-house to experts which in turn will free-up existing resources for other tasks being performed by your employees. An example of out-sourcing Human Resource services includes such tasks as payroll management, short-term temporary staffing, employee survey design and analysis, company newsletters and professional development workshops. Each of these tasks maybe performed more efficiently and be a less-expensive solution that if they were performed by an external solution.
Tasks that are done efficiently once are often repeated because they work. This type of process inefficiency can gradually grow over time without being noticed. An illustration of this is a situation where each month reports are generated by Human Resources summarizing key staff information which is then delivered electronically to supervisors and managers in the company. This time consuming process may not be necessary on a monthly basis but rather a quarterly or semi-annual frequency. A better process would be to reach out to the supervisors and managers to find out what is appropriate and adjust accordingly.
Reduce Unnecessary Expenses
Cutting superfluous expenses are a proven way of maintaining efficiency. Unfortunately, when faced with a budget challenge, some small-business owners become overzealous in their cost reductions and risk sacrificing quality or good customer service. Reducing costs makes good business sense only if quality can be preserved, delivery time frames can be maintained, and customers remain satisfied.
To determine if conducting a process improvement initiative is appropriate for your business, ask yourself if a specific task needs to be modified, eliminated or could be performed more efficiently by investing in a better equipment or utilizing independent contractors or skilled vendors.