As a small business owner you usually have far too many things to do at once.
Both time and money are things you are always worried about, so wouldn’t it be great if there were some simple ways to gain an advantage over the competition?
Well, you are in luck. The principles of lean, which are usually used in manufacturing and other related fields, can easily be applied to your small business with amazing results.
Save time. Save money. Reduce waste. There are so many benefits.
Excited? Let’s dive in and see how easy it can be.
Level Your Workload
We all have the tendency to work in bursts and huge inefficiencies develop as a result. Take your email inbox as a classic example for the modern office worker. We check it 10 times a day or more. Answering each as they arrive, often interrupting other things that we are doing. This breaks the flow of other more important work.
So, instead of doing your work in sporadic bursts of unpredictability, try to make your workload more even and predictable. Two quick examples:
- answer your emails in batches twice a day (when you arrive in the morning and after you are done with lunch)
- ask your “task givers” to space out your work throughout the week instead of dumping a load on your desk (that is due yesterday)
In the lean methodology, it’s called load leveling and is quite simple to implement. All you really need to do is isolate where your load peaks are coming from and try to reduce them. Once you manage that, you can produce some amazing results such as: less mistakes, great efficiency and more output.
We all think we are irreplaceable and keep our work processes in our heads. After all, we know how to do our jobs. It’s obvious, right?
But there is something to be said for creating a process out of every repeatable task that we do. That is one of other key lean principles that can be applied to any business with stunning success. Document your repeatable tasks, step by step, so that they are written down for others to use.
Once you have a process written down on paper, the benefits will become clear:
- Anyone can repeat the task without the creator present
- There is a clear, step by step process that can be followed
- The process can be improved by the “operator” as time goes on
- Measurements can also be applied if and when they are seen as necessary
Don’t let the idea of creating a process for a task put you off. I know it can sound boring and unnecessary, but imagine that person falls ill or moves on to another job tomorrow? Replacing them will be so much easier!
Office waste can be different to what we typically see on the factory floor. However, there is still plenty of waste you can reduce in your small business. Often it hides in plain sight, but once you know what to look for, it’s really quite easy to see and fix.
To help you spot the main sources of waste in your small business I have listed a few you should be on the lookout for:
- Waiting – are you spending too much time waiting for something to happen, arrive, be finished.
- Motion – is there too much movement required to get things done.
- Inventory – too much of anything sitting around waiting to be processed.
- Processing – we need to do some, but often we do too much unnecessary work (reports, manual labor, useless software).
Look at ways to reduce these four things by optimizing how they are done (often with reference to the process you have now written, right?). Reducing waste is at the heart of lean and everything that it stands for. By being vigilant in your business you can easily reduce waste and ultimately save yourself both time and money.
A Few Final Words
Don’t let the complex sounding topics in this post stop you from giving them a try. Quite simply, they are all very simple ideas and can easily be applied to your daily business.
Give it a try, see what results you get, and then maybe explore these ideas a little further to see how they can boost your small business.