Tag Archives: Operational Excellence

 

If you suspect your employees are burned out, you’re probably onto something. The 2023-2024 Aflac WorkForces Report revealed almost 60% of U.S. workers across all industries are experiencing some level of burnout. That’s a significant jump from 2021 when the number was 52%. And, it’s coming close to the quicksand trap of burnout we saw during the height of the pandemic in 2020… which, as we all know, led to the Great Resignation. Many industries still haven’t recovered from that unprecedented mass exodus of workers.

Here are a few more fast facts about workplace fatigue from the Aflac report:

Admittedly, those numbers seem pretty grim. It’s especially concerning when it comes to employee engagement and retention, which are problems bedeviling many industries right now, including manufacturing, mining, food and beverage and others.

The result of employee burnout and workplace fatigue looks like a laundry list of a manager’s worst day: lagging production, employees just phoning it in, growing malaise and discontent among workers. It can lead to errors, too – potentially serious ones. It all adds up to bad news for your bottom line.

That’s why it’s important for managers and higher ups to take a look at their company — the people on the shop floor, the workers in the mines, the longtime employees on the assembly line, even the white collars in the office, wherever your employees get the job done — through the lens of employee burnout.

What causes employee burnout and what can you do about it?

Causes of employee burnout

When tackling a challenge, it’s always best to look for the root cause. For employee burnout, we’re talking about:

But, it’s not just those types of pressures that contribute to burnout. There’s also:

What executives can do about workplace burnout

There are many fixes for this challenging situation and some of them can be implemented fairly easily. Here are some ways we’ve found to help our clients deal with workplace burnout and reenergize their employees.

Investigate automation… This doesn’t mean investing millions in AI to transform your shop into a bot-dominated sci-fi thriller. It means taking a look at the kinds of repetitive tasks that might be better done by a machine. Automation reduces the need for manual labor, but it also reduces human error and increases consistency and efficiency. Payment and accounting, order processing, and inventory management are some areas to consider automating.

…and train employees for higher-skilled jobs. Yes, some tasks can be done faster and more efficiently by the bots. But the people who previously held those jobs are still valuable to your company. Upskilling those employees has more benefits than letting them go. Training is a magic bullet to increasing job satisfaction and employee retention. It gives people a clear view into a path forward, a sense that you value their contributions and are committed to their growth. Training also has another magic power – it increases overall, on-the-job efficiency.

Give workers more autonomy and voice. At USC Consulting Group, we are famous for encouraging top-level executives to get more familiar with the people who are on the front lines. We can all but guarantee that spending a few hours with the seasoned employees doing those jobs will give you a new perspective. They know how the job can and should get done, and are a wealth of information about ways to improve it. Listening to their ideas and better yet, implementing them, pays off in countless ways. Not only do you get a more efficient and productive line, your employees feel respected, listened to and valued. Now that’s a win-win.

Strive for operational excellence. Operational excellence is your organization running on all cylinders, eliminating bottlenecks, reducing waste and ramping up productivity. You have the right people in the right jobs and are using data and key metrics to “manage by the numbers.” How does this combat employee burnout? Just think about how great it feels at work when everything goes right. When you and your employees are clicking. When you don’t just meet but exceed expectations. That great feeling is called job satisfaction and it’s a powerful antidote for burnout.

Need help handling employee burnout? At USC Consulting Group, we’re here to help companies become more efficient, effective and profitable through process improvements — including implementing strategies to increase employee satisfaction and retention. Give us a call today to find out more.

Contact USC Consulting Group

Back to top ↑

 

Last year, the London-based Collins Dictionary named “permacrisis” as the word of the year. It means an extended period of instability caused by an onslaught of seemingly never-ending crises — wildfires, pandemics, hurricanes, floods, inflation, air quality alerts, the highest heat ever recorded in some regions of the world, economic instability, wars… the list goes on. Sound familiar? You name it, we’ve all lived through it. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

In the immortal words of Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live: It’s always something.

The way we see it here at USC Consulting Group, it IS always something. That’s called life. While the world may be going through an unusually rocky stretch, there is no perfect time to be running your business. Whether it’s external crises like the ones we’ve described, or internal upheavals like layoffs, mergers, unforeseen difficulties or the myriad hiccups that can occur, things are going to happen. When they do, companies can thrive, not just survive, with a mix of focusing on process improvements and operational excellence, optimizing your supply chain, and implementing standard operating procedures, along with a dash of the old-fashioned notion that “this too shall pass.”

Here are a few tactics for making sure you’re on solid footing, even during the rockiest of times.

Process improvements

The goal is operational excellence, right? But is that ever truly achievable? Yes, but it can also be a moving target. It means continuous improvements to processes, becoming as efficient as possible. We find that it’s about eliminating bottlenecks, waste and other snags that can impede productivity. Getting the right people in the right jobs and empowering them to get that job done. Developing standards and key process indicators that will tell you when you’re on target and when you aren’t, and using data to “manage by the numbers.”

Optimizing the supply chain: Don’t DRIP!

What’s DRIP? It’s a popular acronym when talking about supply chain. It stands for data rich, information poor. The fragility of the supply chain, no matter the industry you’re in, has become crystal clear in recent years. Optimizing your supply chain needs to be top of mind to make sure you don’t get caught short, and as DRIP suggests, it starts with making sure you’re using data to its fullest. Outdated inventory systems can impede that. Supply, Inventory and Operations Planning (SIOP) is a method we here at USC utilizes that emphasizes inventory as a strategic tool to allow businesses to get a better look at their operations and formulate superior strategy decisions.

SIOP gives you the ability to capture, analyze, integrate and interpret high-quality data, which is the key to staying ahead of the market. The aim is to achieve process automation and glean predictive analytics, which give you a strategic advantage… so you don’t DRIP.

Learn more about SIOP in this free eBook

Standard operating procedures (SOPs)

Much is being written in the news lately concerning “institutional knowledge,” and how the loss of it can be devastating to companies. What is it? It’s what’s NOT in your training manual. It’s what the person you think is “irreplaceable” knows. The ins and outs of doing the job that your best people learn through years of experience. When they retire, or leave the company for whatever reason, that knowledge walks out the door with them. That’s why it’s so important to develop standard operating procedures for every job in your company, and write those procedures down on stone tablets if necessary.

Comprehensive training

When you have those SOPs down, that’s just the first step. Training your people in exactly how to do the job, so everyone across all of your facilities is doing it in the same way, is vital.

Sound like a tall order? It can be. That’s where we come in. At USC Consulting Group, we have 55+ years of experience helping companies optimize their efficiency, ramp up their production, solidify those SOPs and operate to the max. If you’re wondering if now is the right time to hire an operations consultant, download our aptly named eBook, “When is the Right Time to Bring in Operations Consultants?” It’s free, and it will give you more information about how we can help your business.

Right Time to Bring in Operations Consultants eBook CTA

Back to top ↑

 

There’s a popular phenomenon being shared online at the moment: “Instagram vs. Reality.” It’s two photos, side by side. One is doctored and photoshopped and filtered to look perfect. The other is what it looks like in reality. More often than not, there’s a big difference. Perfection is a far cry from reality, and not just on Instagram.

It got us thinking about operational excellence. Some operational excellence consulting firms might tell you their goal is to deliver optimal perfection in which your organization is running on all cylinders 24/7. But in our experience, reality is a lot more complicated than that. We find that operational excellence is a process. And sometimes it’s a moving target. It can change and morph, affected by myriad factors that may be out of your control, like the economy, supply chain issues, hiring problems and snafus, your best leader on the line quitting with a moment’s notice. The list goes on.

As an operational excellence consulting firm, we contend that operational excellence is a process of continuous improvement, not something static and perfect that stays that way in perpetuity. Does it exist? Absolutely. But it doesn’t stay the same.

What is operational excellence consulting?

The textbooks will tell you operational excellence is a process for improving a company’s effectiveness and efficiency — two things we happen to specialize in. The goals of operational excellence consulting read like a playbook of our typical projects: Improving productivity and throughput, reducing waste, focusing on quality and reducing defects, optimizing shifts, updating processes.

Often an end goal of Lean Six Sigma (LSS), operational excellence is a moving target. Striving for operational excellence means continuously improving, rolling with unforeseen circumstances, adapting to ever-changing tides. Here are some effective strategies we’ve honed in the pursuit of operational excellence that you can apply in your operations today.

Strive for process optimization

The cornerstone of LSS, process optimization means finding opportunities to ramp up efficiency, eliminating bottlenecks and waste, enhancing productivity, reducing defects and glitches in both the product and the process, and the whole nine yards of LSS. To read a deep dive into LSS and what it can do for your organization, download our eBook, “Lean Six Sigma: Do You Really Know These Methodologies?”

Get the right people in the right jobs…

Is everyone from the front lines to the corner office in the right jobs? Assess skills, provide training if necessary and listen to feedback so your team is ready to tackle their roles with a great work ethic and enthusiasm.

…and then empower them to do the job right

Many times, the people who work on the shop floor know a lot more about the job than the people in the C-suite. Give them the power to do their jobs and to act quickly when unforeseen situations arise.

Develop KPIs

If you’re not already establishing and monitoring key performance indicators and metrics, get on that. It helps your people know what’s expected of them, and helps you evaluate the quality of the work they’re doing. They also show opportunities for improvement.

Develop standards

Hand in hand with KPIs, standardized operating practices and procedures can ensure you’re getting the consistent results you need.

Manage by the numbers

It’s an oft-used phrase here at USC. Decisions need to be driven by data and hard numbers, not what’s “always worked in the past.” The data can tell you where to improve, what’s working and what needs to change.

Keep the customer in focus

Sometimes, companies can get so caught up in process improvements they lose sight of the end customer. By keeping their needs, expectations and wants in the forefront, you can be assured you’re hitting the mark.

Encourage a culture of continuous improvement

Culture change is easier said than done, but it’s a necessary component to operational excellence. Encourage innovation and ideas for improvement, and reward employees for finding ways to do their jobs better.

Above all, remember it’s a process, not a single achievement. Yes, you may have achieved operational excellence… today. What about tomorrow?

 

Enjoy the article? Subscribe to our blog to receive the latest news and content.

Back to top ↑

 

If your business has a problem or obstacle you can’t solve — a slowdown in throughput, trouble on the line, machinery problems, supply chain issues, demand outweighing supply and more — and your team is struggling to overcome the challenge, it’s time to bring in an operations management consultant.

Operations management consultants will first look at your current operations model, systems and day-to-day processes of getting the job done. Then, they work with your team to implement positive, impactful changes to help your business strive toward operational excellence.

Why Hire an Operations Management Consultant

Is it the right time to hire an outside resource? Perhaps. Before we can answer that question though, let’s look at the reasons why you would need to bring in some help. While each business and situation is different, we find companies seek an operations management consultant due to one or more of these common reasons:

Operations management consultants can be the ‘horsepower’ your team needs to overcome these various challenges to achieve improvements quickly and effectively.

Now, for the burning question… When is the right time to bring in operations consultants? It boils down to dissatisfaction with the status quo, problems organizations can’t seem to overcome, and challenges they’re not equipped to solve. But, like many things in life, it’s not that simple.

For that reason, our subject matter experts at USC Consulting Group walk you through the process in the following eBook:

Right Time to Bring in Operations Consultants eBook CTA

This eBook covers various concepts, including:

If you have questions about operations management consulting and what it can do for your business, give us a call or email us at info@usccg.com. We want you to be well-informed so you can feel comfortable and confident bringing in some help.

Back to top ↑

 

A little goes a long way. It’s an old adage, but one we’ve seen play out, day after day, during our 55-plus years in the consulting business. It’s the notion that what may seem like small changes actually produce big results. At USC Consulting Group, one of our specialties is the “detective work” we do to find hidden opportunities for greater efficiency. Acting on those opportunities can create great change.

Here are some ways a “little” can go a long way for our clients.

Outage management

Most industries that have 24/7 operations — manufacturing, mining & metals, and others — need to do planned outages, or work stoppages, for regular maintenance. It’s a practice we enthusiastically recommend. Planned outages prevent unplanned crises when a machine breaks down unexpectedly. Managing planned outages correctly is vital, because any time the operation is shut down for maintenance, that time is money.

Intricate detail and planning go into planned outages. That was the case with one of our recent clients in the mining industry. They approached USC to assist in planning and executing an upcoming plant-wide outage. Because of cost and schedule overruns year in and year out, the plant was given an ultimatum from its parent company — make the upcoming outage successful or close the plant down.

Through careful planning and execution, we shaved one day off of their planned outage. You might be thinking, just one day? That “small” improvement saved the company upwards of $1 million. The outage was successful, and the plant stayed open.

Outage Management Best Practices White Paper CTA

Food processing

The commercial food industry has a tough nut to crack (pardon the pun) when it comes to processing and bagging their product to send to grocery stores or other end-clients that sell to consumers. Getting the most of their raw materials is all about improving yield, but it’s not easy to achieve the right balance. Let’s take the beef industry for an example. In processing beef into burger, there is a loss of moisture. That’s why when you start off with a pound of beef you don’t get a pound of burger. But, as a consumer, when you’re buying what is labeled a pound of burger, you can expect a pound — by law. To achieve that, the industry compensates for the loss of moisture and adds more ground beef into each unit. Better to pack a little too much than too little, right? It’s what the industry calls “the giveaway.” It’s essentially overpacking.

Just a little more? How big a problem is this, really? If a company is processing, say, 30,000 pounds of ground beef into burger every day, adding a smidge more into each package can be a very big problem indeed. One recent client of USC came to us when they realized they were giving away over 1.5 million pounds of beef yearly.

With process improvements, equipment fixes and increased speed and throughput, we were able to help our client strike the right balance, decreasing that overpack from 2% to 1%. Just a 1% savings? That’s a pretty small number on the face of it… until you see it resulted in a savings of $84,000 per month. That’s huge.

Change management

Not every “small” change can produce hard numbers like the examples above, but we see the benefits time and time again when we’re helping clients with change management.

We’ve learned that we can effect all the change we can muster — make the line more efficient, increase throughput, get the operation lean and mean, whatever else is needed — but none of it will stick without managing the change correctly. This part of the job isn’t about numbers, planning or complex methods. It’s about people.

Whatever the change you’re making, it’s going to involve people behaving and working in a different way. So at its core, effective change management requires helping people transform their behavior. As we all know, people don’t necessarily love that, especially if they’ve been getting the job done one way for the duration. Research shows 62% of people don’t like leaving their comfort zone.

We find that small changes really go a long way here. It’s about the CEO taking some time to walk the shop floor and talk with frontline workers about the changes that are coming down the pike. It’s about us involving those workers in the process of change from the get-go, asking for their ideas for improvements, their thoughts about what the problems are that need solving. That way, the change that we’re implementing won’t be happening to them. They will be a part of it, champion it, and make that change stick every day on the line.

One other bonus to this tactic? It creates employee engagement and loyalty. Just 36% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and 74% are actively looking for new jobs, according to a Gallup survey. 94% of employees say they’d stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development, LinkedIn reports. With manufacturing looking at 1 million unfulfilled jobs and the cost of replacing an employee as much as twice their annual salary, those small changes can mean big numbers on your balance sheets.

This is one part of our process that doesn’t take advanced degrees, engineers or Lean Six Sigma black belts to achieve. It just takes a little time and some people skills.

Get in touch today if you’d like to talk about how USC can help your company become more efficient and effective. One small conversation can go a long way to improving your operations.

Looking for ways to improve your bottom line

Back to top ↑

 

All championship-caliber teams are able to transfer plays on a chalkboard to game winning performances on the field. There is a strategy laid out and the players execute that plan to perfection. This is no different for a manufacturer’s operations team looking to achieve operational excellence.

Operational excellence strategies must involve every player in an organization knowing and driving the game plan. Each member of the team understands that product moves from Process A to Process B and so on in a specific quantity, at a specific time, to a specific location. If it doesn’t, then like a quarterback calls an audible, they recognize something is wrong and make corrective actions.

Reaching the OpEx end zone requires your operations personnel to be key players in creating and delivering products with meritorious results. Your operational excellence strategies need to include effective value stream and work flow cycles. The Flow of Value to your fans (the customer) can be seen by every employee and can be fixed should that process break down.

Having the right strategies in place in the game of operational excellence can make you feel like it’s 1st and goal… not 4th and long. Like hashmarks on the field, your success may be a matter of inches. With the right strategy, you can escape the blitz and come through in the clutch.

Watch this game tape for six plays that can help you achieve operational excellence:

1) Recruit the right players: Your employees and the culture they create in the workplace are pivotal to execution

2) Know the X’s and O’s: Map out and define what operational excellence actually looks like for your team

3) Trust your roster: Empower your workers with a game plan so they can make corrections when issues arise

4) Play to the whistle: When trying to reach your goal, don’t relent; true operational excellence revolves around continuous improvement

5) Review the game film: Establishing and interpreting KPIs help you evaluate the quality of performance

6) Support your fans: Understanding your customers’ needs and what it takes to satisfy them provides value propositions

If you have the desire, USC Consulting Group has the coaching successes and “in the trenches” experience. We can guide your team to the operational excellence end zone. Contact us today.

 

Looking to empower your performance? Contact USC

 

Back to top ↑

 

In the ongoing pursuit of operational excellence, do you feel like it’s 1st and goal or 4th and long? The challenges you encounter in business can feel like you’re in the middle of the game with the clock ticking down. The moves you make and steps you take determine whether you’ll score the touchdown or come up a few yards short. But with the right mindset, plays, and strategy, you and your teammates can come through in the clutch.

Operational Excellence applies to your entire team in the organization – from the top business executives to the shop floor employees. Each player recognizes the flow of value to the customer and have a strategic plan in place to fix that flow should it experience a disruption. In other words, your employees have the ability to call an “audible” to correct abnormal conditions.

Here are six plays that can take you past the red zone and into the end zone:

6 Plays That Can Drive Your Business to Operational Excellence Infographic

 

USC Consulting Group has the keys to winning the game of operational excellence for your business. We can coach you to victory. Contact us today before time runs out.

 

Looking to empower your performance? Contact USC

 

Back to top ↑

 

Executives and shop-floor stakeholders have been pursuing operational excellence for decades, but a fraction of these industrial idealists have actually achieved it. In fact, just 32 percent of supervisors and one-quarter of employees believe that their organizations boast true operational excellence, according to research from Wrike.

Business leaders who have yet to cultivate workflows that adhere to the guiding principles of operational excellence – treating customers and employees with respect, embracing scientific thinking and emphasizing value creation, according to the Shingo Institute – can make progress toward this goal in 2019 by implementing these four workable strategies for achieving operational excellence:

1. Define operational excellence

Analysts for the Institute for Operational Excellence believe that manufacturing firms that have achieved operational excellence make it so that “each and every employee can see the flow of value to the customer, and fix that flow before it breaks down.” This is a tall order, even for larger firms with significant financial resources and manpower. Even so, enterprises in any industry can set themselves up for success by unpacking the idea of operational excellence and mapping out how it might manifest on the shop floor. The IOE recommends leveraging operational flow charts, which help contributors at all levels visualize the progress of value creation. For instance, a chemicals manufacturing firm might dodge procurement issues by building flexibility into its supply chain and developing relationships with multiple raw materials providers, along with shipping and logistics contingencies to match.

2. Establish and monitor KPIs

Achieving sustained operational excellence is impossible without access to baseline performance data from your shop floor. Unfortunately, too many manufacturers either maintain poor data collection and analysis processes or forgo these essential activities altogether. Both actions have the same outcome: dysfunction, a deep lack of understanding, and an inability to strategize intelligently.

Businesses that want to avoid these end results and achieve operational excellence must focus on implementing fast and accurate measures for collecting data and assessing key performance indicators. Automation is important here, as manual methods almost always lead to cumbersome amounts of data entry, errors, and eventually abandonment. Best-in-class manufacturers that have managed to achieve operational excellence leverage automated KPI-collection setups that deliver real-time intelligence to decision-makers, who, in turn, can address production roadblocks and move the operation forward in a timely manner.

3. Empower the employees

Sprinkled in among the more technical best practices included in the Shingo Institute’s guiding principles of operational excellence are some gentler strategies centered on cultivating effective leaders and executors – two key ingredients in an industry-leading manufacturing enterprise.

Principle No. 1, which advises firms to respect workers by empowering them through professional development initiatives, is perhaps the most important. When employees feel empowered and engaged, they take ownership of their work and pursue individual excellence, which contributes to the organization as a whole. However, many businesses struggle in this area. In fact, a mere 34 percent of American workers say they are engaged on the job, according to research from Gallup. Worse yet, the manufacturing sector ranks at the bottom for employee happiness, analysts for TINYpulse found. Companies must overcome these obstacles to achieve operational excellence, which means investing in training programs and other initiatives designed to keep key shop-floor contributors engaged and focused on driving value.

4. Facilitate continuous improvement

Operational excellence is not the end all be all. What matters more is continuing forward with augmentation and understanding that various internal and external variables can easily knock previously rock-solid processes off course, which can cause significant issues that inhibit value creation and drag down the bottom line. Continuous improvement is the engine that drives sustained success. Top performers in the industrial sector facilitate this never-ending search for betterment by deploying risk identification and mitigation methodologies, which make it easier for shop-floor stakeholders to spot burgeoning problems and develop upgraded processes to address them. For example, an automotive manufacturer with access to strong asset management processes – staples of organizations with effective continuous improvement workflows – can identify small mechanical kinks before they devolve into downtime-causing catastrophes that wreck productivity.

Businesses in the manufacturing space can move closer to achieving operational excellence by adopting these impactful best practices. Of course, executing these strategies at scale might prove difficult for some. Here at USC Consulting Group, we have been helping manufacturers optimize their operations for decades, leveraging proven techniques and tools that accelerate change and lay the foundation for growth.

Contact us today to learn more about our work in the manufacturing arena and how we can help your firm pursue operational excellence in 2019.

 

Looking to empower your operational performance

 

Back to top ↑