How to cut waste and improve efficiency in the workplace

When you’re trying to become more competitive as a business, expand your offerings and boost profits, it can often pay dividends to start at home – or at least, at your office. Making your processes more streamlined and spending less time and money on tasks that don’t actually add value within the workplace can provide a useful template for expanding this new philosophy to every aspect of your business. Here are some tips, tricks and guidelines to get you started!

Reduce actual waste

Overhauling all your business processes can be daunting, so it’s often easier to start with a smaller, more tangible goal that you can use to build your confidence and get your employees on board. You can sell the project to your team as a greening initiative that will happen to save you a pretty penny at the end of the day too. Things like going paperless (or as near to paperless as possible), ditching paper cups or one-use plastics in the kitchen, reusing old files or binders, purchasing second-hand wherever you can, whatever suits your particular environment.

Create an efficiency team

Tools like Six Sigma and the Lean methodologies have an impressive and proven track record for both cutting waste and improving efficiencies and showing a very real return on investment – often within just weeks. If you don’t have the time to get familiar with these systems (or a similar alternative), then pick someone in the office to be a kind of ambassador. You can either choose someone you know will have a natural aptitude or ask for volunteers. It’s a great opportunity to let talented and ambitious junior staff members put their hands up and volunteer to learn a valuable new skill. Depending on where you’re located, they could attend an in-person training course or take part in an online course. They then become your efficiency leader and can train up other employees to help them bring you the best strategies, and then execute them.

Ditch time-waster meetings

Anyone who’s ever worked in a corporate environment knows all about “meetings about meetings”, and long, protracted gatherings where a lot is said, but very little action actually results. It might be time to get brutally honest with yourself and figure out if you’re taking up too much of your employees’ time with unnecessary meetings.

That said, meetings do serve an important function too – getting up to speed with where your employees are with their various projects, highlighting areas where they might need assistance, and setting goals and targets. Try to keep meetings on track, avoid going off on tangents, and make sure everyone leaves with a clear idea of what their tasks and responsibilities are.

Tackle big picture expenses too

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a good acronym, then you might find TIM WOODS helpful in identifying waste. Here’s what it stands for courtesy of the nibusinessinfo website:

Transport – minimize movement of materials so processes are near each other

Inventory (stock) – aim for ‘just-in-time’ production

Motion – improve workplace ergonomics and reduce unnecessary motion of business operations

Waiting – aim for smooth flow to eliminate waiting periods

Overproduction – aim to make what the customer orders, just in time

Over-processing – use resources of appropriate capacity to achieve required quality

Defects – aim for zero defects

Skills (unused) – not using the full potential of staff by wasting their knowledge, experience and ideas

Other potential areas of waste include anywhere you’re not making the best use of resources such as water and power, raw materials or even unsatisfied customers who choose to go elsewhere – a wasted source of potential income. If you’re in a manufacturing industry which relies heavily on water, for example, then partnering with a professional utility management provider could help you make big-scale changes as well as smaller in-office ones.

Eliminate or reduce distractions

Most people battle to refocus on what they were doing after an interruption, and this can be a major hindrance to productivity. Once someone has been assigned a task, resist the urge to micromanage, and save any additional tasks that you have for them until they’ve finished what they’re working on at the moment. You can also help your staff boost their own productivity by installing appropriate task management software, so they can see at a glance what’s outstanding, what’s due soonest, and what the highest priority tasks are. Getting employee feedback is another great tool, as it allows individuals to make suggestions which will best fit in with their own preferred and unique style of working.