Takeaway: When we learn to properly evaluate and balance workloads, we improve what we do and how we do it. We create a blueprint for success.
Our businesses operate as a series of systems made of people, processes, and equipment. When we design these systems for efficiency and work balance, it creates work flow. We reduce bottlenecks.
Work Balance Basics
We need to follow a structured framework; a blueprint for creating work balance. Our steps will consist of:
- Know customer demand rate (takt time)
- Identify all work activities (Review each activity by Time, energy, sequence, and efficiency)
- Create Standardized work
- Continuous improvement
Customer Demand Rate: In all we do there is a time element. When we meet our rate of customer demand, we are delivering our products and services as needed. We need to understand available work time. If we don’t balance our time, frustration and inefficiency will go up. In each step of our framework, we are looking at time and resources and seeking to optimize them.
80/20 Time use structure – We want 80% of our work time spent on set work tasks and 20% free for dealing with issues, driving improvements, etc.
In the above diagram, the red line represents available work time. Each stack represents activities performed by employees or equipment. The first stack is the ideal ratio. With 80% of the time spent on scheduled work tasks, there is 20% left as a cushion for “what-if.” If the work is completed early, the employee uses the time to help co-workers, special projects, etc.
The 80/20 can be configured based on the robustness of your operation. The goal is to maintain control and meet customer demand. I have seen businesses schedule workloads using 100% of available time. Employees maintain control only when everything goes perfectly. Employees are overburdened and frustrated as they try to keep their heads above water. In these environments, employees don’t enjoy work; they survive it.
We are constantly seeking control of our work. When we become overburdened by too much work for the available time, we may cut corners, skip safety, or cheat quality to get work done. We need control of our work time.
Identify all work activities: Once we understand customer demand and available time, we need to identify all work activities. We want to maximize value added time from the customers perspective. We constantly look to remove forms of waste such as:
- Underutilized people
We must identify and list each step in the work sequence needs to be analyzed in detail, observing relationships between:
- Manual operations
- Machine operations
- Time spent walking about or waiting for events to finish is waste and needs to be eliminated or minimized
- Use spaghetti diagrams as a graphical representation of the relationship between man time, machine time, and waiting time
Create Standardized work: If we don’t create standard work instructions, people will fall back into the old way of working. We need a platform for future improvements. Standard work instructions provide this. Employees need to understand that these instructions are the safest and most efficient way we know today for performing work. As we come up with better ways of working, we change the standard work instructions.
Continuous improvement: We are performance driven. It is in our DNA to want to succeed and set goals. Employees need ownership and empowerment. With every pair of hands we get a free brain. Our work environment will either encourage or discourage employee engagement.
If you’re using the 80/20-time usage structure, employees can use available time to drive improvements. In today’s fast paced world, if we’re not improving what we do and how we do it, we are most likely sliding backward and becoming less efficient. We may not be keeping up with changes in technology, market, and customer needs.
Balanced and Optimized
Employees want to succeed at work. It is up to management to provide them with the tools, strategy, and resources they need. When employees are successful at work, it creates momentum for more improvement and a positive work environment.
Worker success leads to:
- Pride; we all love wins and accomplishments
- Job security
- Feeling valued
- Increased worker engagement
Work balancing is essential for optimization and creating a healthy and successful work culture. When employees are over-burdened on a regular basis, they can slip into learned helplessness. This is our mind’s way of protecting us. We have accepted our situation and have adapted to it.
We do what we can without hope of change for the better. We minimize emotional investment and pain.
Use Technology – Go Mobile!
For each step, in work balancing, we need sound data and information. We need to know how effective our work activities are and recognize trends immediately. Mobile devices are great for this. We want a simple method for gathering and tracking time and resources. Employees need to validate that efforts are bringing the desired results.
Constantly monitor activity time. Since we are performance driven, we need to have set targets and know how we are doing regarding them. We need dynamic tension and a sense of urgency in all that we do.
Up-to-date performance information is the fuel that drives effort. We want employees involved in gathering and reporting performance data. By creating electronic forms that are easy to use, employees can upload information regarding task time, scrap, re-work, waiting, changeovers, etc.
We need constant validation that our work is effective. We must have clear performance targets and lots of wins. We want employee success and customer satisfaction as our most important targets. Profit is only sustainable when those two goals consistently happen.
How About You
How balanced is your work day? Are you using your time in the best way? Do you know what activities rob your time? It doesn’t matter if we work in an office or a construction site. Our time is our most valuable resource.
If we don’t balance our work, we are losing opportunities and raising our frustration levels. When we think structure and framework for success; begin with time use. This may be our greatest competitive edge. For your team, how well do you balance work and time? Is it a strength or a weakness?