How to Achieve Assembly-Line-Like
Efficiency in Your Company

See also: Project Planning

Your business has great potential, but does it live up to expectations? Any shortcomings might relate to several factors, but one stands out - low productivity levels.

You might think that boosting productivity in the workplace requires wholesale changes, but this is not always the case.

It can help to learn from assembly production lines that focus on ironing out small issues that hinder productivity, and whose effects have a ripple effect on the entire production process.

Your business might be different, but the principles are similar. Transpose them and you can bring good results to your workplace.

Let’s look at how your business can become more effective by taking a page out of the assembly-line book.

Focus On Small Improvements

Some of the most successful assembly lines use the ‘kaizen’ concept. Kaizen refers to finding even the smallest areas to improve in order to increase overall efficiency. A few seconds here and there can make a huge difference over time.

Several global brands such as Starbucks and Toyota support these principles – with significant results.

For instance, Starbucks used to pour extra shots of espresso into a shot glass first, before emptying the shot glass into the cardboard drinking cup. Unnecessary, right?, So they started pouring the shots directly into the cardboard cup. That decision increased the coffee taste and reduced the time taken to make espresso by about five seconds. Even such a small gain adds up and increases financial and operational success.

Small changes to make your workplace more productive are doable, whatever business you operate in.

Think Like a Factory

Assembly lines rely on efficiency. Henry Ford cut the time taken to assemble a single car from 12 hours to just 90 minutes. He assembled 3,000 parts of the Model T in 84 distinct steps.

Part of how Ford did this was noticing that workers wasted time having to leave their stations to get more parts. He made sure they never ran out of parts – and this made it easy to spot underperforming workers, too, since work piled up on their stations.

These changes might seem insignificant, but they returned great results. For Ford, it led to a lower price for the Model T, faster production, and a better paid, more satisfied workforce.

If you’re in an office setting, desk organisation is the first line of efficiency defence.

  1. Do employees have access to everything they need at a reasonable distance? Ask your employees what things require them to move around the most.
  2. Do employees need to walk distances to talk to people? Can they shorten the time taken to do this by using instant messaging?
  3. If employees use a printer regularly, is it close to them?

Create an Open Workflow

One of Ford’s most precious assets was an open work floor. Supervisors could keep tabs on what everyone was doing – and inefficiencies stood out.

Operational transparency is the key to achieving high productivity. If you can’t measure something, you can’t improve it!

Following up on everyone is inefficient and it takes a long time to catch bottlenecks. This is where technology comes to the rescue.

Try using an online system or a project management portal to follow the progress of different projects and personnel. You’ll learn which stages take the longest so you’ll know where to trim processes.

All your data and communication should funnel into a platform like this.

Communication Skills Are Key

Good communication is vital – you can’t have impeccable productivity without it. It’s comprehensive and starts at the point where workers are told to do a specific task.

Tell your workers about your business goals, so they’ll understand what they’re working towards. Explain your long- and short-term goals, plus your timelines for achieving them.

Establish priorities at company level, at departmental level, and at employee level. Set realistic expectations – for top managers down to interns.

As things move forward, be sure to let people know of any changes in priorities.

Build a channel where team members can report issues that interrupt their job. Make sure they know they can raise any problem with the production line – it can only benefit everyone.

Likewise, reward employees who exceed productivity goals – and ask them how they did it!

Pay Attention to Detail: Track Everything

Processes are hard to measure – but there’s always room for improvement. Keeping track of the work as it’s done will help you spot small time-wasting trends.

Examine your workers’ daily tasks.

  1. What things take the most time?
  2. How can you reduce the time needed to accomplish those tasks?
  3. Is there a tool that could speed up the work?
  4. Could you split the position into two smaller ones?

Provided all the objectives are met, don’t be afraid to level tasks up and implement small improvements.

Technology Skills: Keep Workers Equipped

This is one of the main bottlenecks in most company processes. Managers need to make sure the proper tools and information are available – otherwise your workers will use that as an excuse for lazing around, and they’ll be 100% entitled to do so.

For example, if you’re managing content production, ensure you give your writers topics and keywords in plenty of time. Every company has its own processes and production line.

Your assembly might look like: topical research > headline crafting > creating a brief for writers > writing content > editing content > formatting content > adding visuals > publishing > promoting on social media > blogger outreach.

Responsibility for preparing the toolset lies with the people at the start of the production line – if they waste time, it’s tough to recover it.

Use Technology Purposefully

Modern day technology has made things a lot easier – if you know how to use it well.

Most online project management platforms make it hard for workers to cut corners while enforcing proper time management. However, employees will all have a different way of using the same platform if managers don’t set rules.

The ideal platform will give you full transparency and make you a data-driven decision-maker. You can use several platforms and tools to help keep track of your production processes and give you a clear picture of how to improve operations. This is especially good for employees who are not in-house, such as those working from home.

Achieving assembly-line-like efficiency isn’t difficult if you know what to watch out for and improve.

Don’t just focus on large problems – the small ones you ignore can have just as significant an effect on your whole process.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

Peter Drucker

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership eBooks

Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.

Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.

These principles have worked for some of the largest global brands – and they’re the reason their operations are streamlined across plants in different parts of the world.

If you implement them in your business, you’re sure to see a boost in productivity. Always look for new ways to increase efficiency – even the best assembly line can be improved somehow.

About the Author

Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. Lisa spends her free time trying out new recipes or reading Scandinavian crime novels.