I work primarily in the manufacturing industry, helping them with lean methodology to improve efficiency and decrease waste. Inevitably when I am called in to help, management thinks the main problems stem from the production floor – if only they could increase production, all the problems will resolve.
I listen and then go right to the front office, because what they do impacts the rest. We have to start at the beginning of the process. If order taking isn’t done correctly, it doesn’t matter how efficient the production team is.
If we use the analogy of building a house, the front office is the foundation. You could hire the best contractors in each of their respective trades and skill levels, yet if the foundation isn’t good, the home will have issues. All the repairs made to the house would simply be temporary fixes, and they’d add up over time. Fixing the foundation is the only solution, and fixing it after the house is built, is the most expensive repair to make.
In business, in order to make sure the foundation and structure is correct, a feedback loop or loops should be put in place. A feedback loop is simply a process that purposefully gathers information to be used for improvements.
“A feedback loop can be customer or employee focused but the goal is the same: continuous improvement.”
Productivity and feedback loops go hand in hand because in order to solve issues with decreased production, we have to look at the system as a whole. We need to gather information, and continue to gather information, in order to discover the underlying issue.
Let’s use a client example:
I had a client in the service industry who was struggling with low production. They hired more staff to solve the problem, but were facing the same issue, just with more people. Management felt that if technicians could complete more jobs in a day, revenue would increase, but they couldn’t figure out how to motivate them to do so.
When I talked to the field technicians, they felt if they had more streamlined routes, they could produce more. As usual, frontline staff and management were blaming each other, creating a cycle of under-productivity. This was our first feedback loop – gathering information from staff.
We used an internal feedback loop to hear from employees what problems they were seeing. We also used a customer feedback loop to find out what was and wasn’t working regarding their service. Most customers were happy, but the ones that weren’t had a theme: the field technicians weren’t showing up when the office said they would.
When I sat with the order takers, I discovered they weren’t notating the arrival window the customer needed in their notes. This meant technicians were arriving too early, or too late, resulting in a “no job” or reschedule. This important part of the process fell through the cracks when a software change happened, changing the order takers’ input process.
Ultimately, the issue wasn’t with the production team, but those taking the orders. This created a domino effect that resulted in lower productivity. Without a feedback loop, the company was working to fix the problem they thought they had, rather than the real problem.
Resolving the real problem increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and reduced employee frustration. That’s the power of a feedback loop!
If you are ready to be proactive, or have found some process holes that need to be filled, that’s my expertise. PBEX, LLC provides a complete review and analysis of the business processes that create efficiency and profitability, and the barriers to them. Contact us today to learn more.