Lean And The Age Of AI And Robotics

The advent of technology has developed in such a powerful way that nothing could remain the same. The beginning of the XXI century completely changed the way we perceive work, so much that it’s almost impossible to imagine a workplace without some type of AI. The global market has also undergone radical changes in the past few decades; this has also significantly contributed to the rise of AI and robotics in Lean management implementation.

The Connection Between Lean Management and Technology

With the development of the Internet and machine technology, work has changed in such a way that it’s now very hard to keep track with it. Innovations and breakthroughs occur on a daily basis, and every good company should do its best to make good use of this. By implementing AI into the work process, your company can profit in numerous ways. You will be able to:

  • track the work process down to the last detail
  • recognize the weak spots and bad links within the company
  • optimize the operational process according to the workload
  • conduct an efficient assessment on a regular basis
  • make accurate predictions

Over the past several decades, some companies were slow on implementing technology in Lean management, and they’ve all suffered considerably because of it. By failing to do this efficiently, these companies gambled with their future in the market. In today’s world, it is crucial not to make this mistake.

The Benefits of Using AI and Robotics in Lean Management 

There are numerous benefits of implementing AI and robotics in Lean management of your work process:

  • Lower cost of work. It actually costs less than paying employees, especially in the long run; it can be more reliable, more efficient and more productive.
  • Independence. It doesn’t depend on the majority of external factors, which means an increase in the overall productivity. It is practically not affected by distractions, work fatigue, or drop in standardized production values.
  • De-stressed employees. If the majority of the work process is automated, workers have more time to spend on creative tasks; they also don’t have to worry about every single detail, which means they can focus on the “big picture”.
  • High precision and accuracy. There is no fear of error-making, since everything is automated and worked out down to the core level. For example, robots are much more effective at detecting than humans, and software is much more reliable when it comes to data assessment or data storage.
  • Increased employee safety. The risk of work injury is much lower due to the automated aspects of the work process. Once programmed, AI can commit virtually no errors; thus, it makes the workplace much safer for the employees.

What Does a Company Need in Order to Implement AI and Robotics?

The most important thing a company needs is skilled workforce. With the advent of modern technologies, the entire work process has altered – and the need for old-time employees is gone. Nowadays workers need to possess a different mindset and a modern skillset; otherwise, they won’t be able to adjust to the requirements of the modern-age technology.

For example, there will be less and less need for repetitive human work; instead, humans will need to expand their knowledge in terms of machine-control and process management. This doesn’t mean that the importance of human labor will be diminished – just the contrary. The only difference will be in the roles human workforce assumes. Humans will have to learn more technical skills, but there will be a greater need for those who haven’t been able to contribute enough in the past (e.g. people with disabilities).

A company also needs a solid business plan. Without a detailed plan, the implementation process might not go as planned. This is why it’s important to invest enough time into the preparation for the implementation process.

What Are Some Examples of AI/Robot Implementation in Lean Management?

Telecommuting

This is one of the most well-known examples of integrating technology into the work process. Since there is no need for employees to be physically present at the place of work, they can complete their tasks using mobile communications, such as phones or laptop/desktop computers.

Industrial Robots

By being programmed, automated and independent, industrial robots can accomplish their tasks with much more efficiency and accuracy than humans. Industrial robots significantly speed up the work process, which is reflected in a company’s economic impact.

Machine-Learning Platform

This type of technology is widely used in various industries, and its main advantage is a significant contribution to prediction, classification, and assessment. Thus, a computer system gradually develops while “learning”. As a direct result of this, work performance on a specific task grows exponentially.

Decision Management

Decision management has a goal of automating a company’s decision-making system as much as possible, through the use predictive analytics and similar software solutions. As a result of this, the cost of decision-making within a company drops significantly, whereas the overall efficiency grows.

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Common Logistic Inefficiencies That Are Killing Your Bottom Line

Logistics is often viewed simply as the moving of goods from vendors to customers or from manufacturing facilities to warehouses or distributors. In actuality, it’s a lot more than that. Logistics is a process that involves the entire company, and inefficiencies within it can significantly impact the effectiveness of your business. Find out what they are and how to make sure they do not slow your company down.

Bad Information Management

In business, information is everything. Without relevant information, you won’t be able to do anything. There can be no planning, no insight into the work process, etc. By missing out on just one item, or piece of information, you risk destroying your company in the long run – and this simply cannot happen.

Therefore, the most important thing is to obtain all the relevant information for your business. The best way to do this is through an information management system. There are two ways you can go: custom solution or an existing one. If your company is in good financial standing, and you can afford it, we recommend that you obtain a customized system.

By integrating this information management system into your work process, you will be able to track all of your orders, warehouse inventory, supply chain, delivery, etc. Your entire business will go through a thorough transformation from the bottom up. Information management is the key to your business success.

Poorly Trained Employees

This is another part of logistics that many businesses somehow overlook. In every part of your company, trained, knowledgeable employees are an essential component of the entire work process. And logistics is no exception to that.

Your employees have to be fully trained for the position, and they need to possess enough knowledge to deal with their daily tasks and challenges. If you have staff members who were trained years ago, they won’t be able to contribute in their full capacity; they have to be trained anew, and learn everything about the new developments in the industry.

SOP That Needs Reworking

SOP or standard operational procedure is the axis of your work process. Just because you have a SOP and your company is working – doesn’t mean that you have the best SOP around.

Oftentimes, a good SOP doesn’t have too many steps. Some of the best SOPs have only a couple of steps, but they are all well thought out and tailored to the needs of the company. Therefore, you have to make sure that your SOP is in touch with the company values and your business requirements. SOP must address all the aspects of the work process, enabling them to work efficiently. Also, remember that a good SOP always includes regular quality control.

Neglecting KPI

KPI, or key performance indicator, is a very important aspect of logistics, and you should give it your utmost attention. In essence, KPI is an objective measurement of your work progress, based on two factors – 1) your business goals and 2) your standard of performance.

Just any a physical measurement instrument, KPI tells you how fast you are going toward your business goals within a given time frame. In order to be effective, KPI must include measurements from all the key aspects of logistics, such as:

  • order invoicing
  • inventory
  • purchase and supply
  • stock management
  • transportation

The more elements you include into your KPI, the more accurate its results will be.

Neglecting the Supply Chain

Supply chain is not some addition to your business. It is not an optional part of your business – it is your business. Think of supply chain as the bloodline of your company. If you block it, or don’t pay enough attention to it, your business will wither and die.

In order to make it as effective as possible, think of your supply chain as a standalone business within your company. It still belongs to your company, it works along with it – but it is also independent. Your supply chain is your connection to the market; without it, you are completely lost. The better your strategy for your supply chain is, the better your commercial results will be.

Be sure to have a supply chain with a good network design and solid supplier performance – both are equally important for its success. As mentioned earlier, your supply chain resembles a bloodline – in that sense, its network design is the system of veins and arteries and the supplier performance is a pulse.

No Strategic Planning

If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t get anywhere. This is where the importance of strategic planning lies. Your business, as a whole, needs strategic planning in order to survive, but so does every aspect of your business – including logistics. You need to develop a solid strategy for your warehouse, transportation, ordering, suppliers, vendors, etc.

Don’t leave anything to chance – each section of the work process has to be well thought out. Although you run your business on a day-to-day basis, you cannot allow yourself to plan on a day-to-day basis. Strategic planning requires seeing the “big picture” and thinking long-term.

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How Lean Principles Can Turn Your Healthcare Company Into An Efficiency Machine

When it comes to Lean and healthcare, you really shouldn’t view it as just another program, or a business section that needs to be introduced. In fact, Lean is a complete transformation of a facility from the bottom up. You should look at it as a brand-new business culture that will help your company achieve groundbreaking results.

Once you implement Lean into your work community, you will see changes in the atmosphere, employee attitude, work efficiency, work habits and, of course – overall productivity. Lean is not something you do once and then forget about; it is an ongoing transformation of your work environment and everyone involved in it.

If Lean can be summed up in a single phrase, that it would probably be – gradual improvement. That’s what Lean really comes down to: it is a gradual improvement of a company, in every possible way. Furthermore, it creates a whole new set of professional values your employees can adhere to.

Lean unifies the whole work process around a single purpose, giving both the employees and patients a sense of working on a common goal. In turn, this results in outstanding results and numerous physical and psychological benefits.

Let us break down all the principles of implementing Lean management into your healthcare company. You will see all the ways in which your health care company can be transformed if you opt for it.

1. Increased Employee Engagement

Employees are given tasks which help increase their overall work engagement and productivity. They are allowed to come up with new ideas for improving their engagement, and discuss them with their colleagues. Communication among workers is smoother, discussions are more constructive and goal-oriented, and each problem is worked on until a solution is reached. Every new idea is welcomed, and every possible approach to the work process is given enough thought.

This practice has proved to be highly effective, as employees who speak to each other openly are more engaged and productive. The core value of this practice lies in its team-building aspects, as effective collaboration of the entire medical team can significantly reinforce all aspects of the work process.

2. Increased Efficiency

The entire work process is rethought and redesigned. The most important feature of the Lean practice is the creation of standardized protocols; these are designed in such a way that they cut all unnecessary aspects of the work procedure and reinforce its integral parts. Staff members are focused on problem-solving as one of the major contributing factors to the overall quality of the workflow.

Oftentimes, this practice turns entire medical facilities upside down, rearranging the work process in the best possible way. The biggest asset of this practice is the strengthening on the whole work environment, where every staff member knows exactly what to do and how to do it.

3. Reinforced Skillsets

The skillset of the staff members is their most important asset. Without skilled, knowledgeable workers, the whole medical facility can be compromised, and this could even lead to fatal consequences.

Lean methodology puts extra focus on the skillset of the workforce, making sure that every team member is absolutely equipped (professionally, physically and psychologically) for performing their given tasks. The work process can further be improved through the use of Lean consultants and facilitators, who apply the best practices for workplace optimization.

Staff members are treated as equal employees (each with their own skillset) and the entire work process is set to respond to an individual’s set of skills and responsibilities. As a result of this, delays are minimized, work volume is increased and turnover time is cut down significantly.

4. Increased Work Flexibility

Sometimes, when a situation requires it, the work process has to be adjusted to the new “environment”. In these situations, work flexibility is extremely important. Working around an emergency, and coming up with the most effective strategy is key for all medical facilities.

Lean implementation helps medical facilities improve their work flexibility and optimize their employees for all case scenarios. This results in better overall efficiency and increased productivity.

5. Reinforced Reputation

If a healthcare company or a medical facility works like clockwork, it will definitely show in their reputation among the clients and patients. Lean management helps healthcare companies reinforce their image among clients through consistent quality of services provided. Sadly, this is something that many companies choose to ignore.

With too many drops in the quality of service, a company jeopardizes its future in the market. Through Lean management, every part of the company will come together, turning the entire company into a healthy organism. When a company works perfectly, the service recipients will be absolutely satisfied – and they will spread the word around.

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How To Turn Your Executive Vision Into Action

Planning future actions is an integral part of any successful business, but this is oftentimes easier said than done. Even some of the most successful companies in the world struggle with executing their business strategy and setting long-term goals.

Here are some of the things you should do in order to maximize your potential for work execution.

Focus and Determination

Remember, the most important asset of any successful business is continual growth. In the long run, a business will be measured by its determination to grow and develop on a continuous basis. The pressure is hard, and the challenges are numerous – but it is essential that you keep growing as a company. Otherwise, everything will collapse like a house of cards.

Unfortunately, there are so many companies that forget (or deliberately ignore) how crucial long-term planning is. If long-term goals are not set, and if there is no long-term strategy, your executive powers will diminish and your business potential will dwindle. Therefore, the most important asset of your company is – determination to set and achieve long-term goals.

Valuing All Tasks

If continual growth is to be achieved, business leaders must come up with effective practices. In today’s world, there are so many business leaders who don’t put enough thought into developing their business strategy. Others ignore the importance of small tasks and day-to-day work, focusing solely on what awaits them ten years from now.

Unfortunately, this is not a good approach. And the reason is simple: all long-term success depends on completing those tedious, minute tasks during every single workday. That is the key element: there are no small tasks and secondary work activities. It all must work itself into your company’s “big picture”.

You probably know the saying “the chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. Well, the same principle can be applied to business: “your company is only as strong as the attention you give to even the smallest of tasks”. Once you realize this fairly simple principle, and start incorporating it into your work culture, you will witness massive changes in your productivity and business results.

Maintaining Flawless Communication

It is practically impossible to maintain business success without proper communication in the workplace. Every business leader must be aware of the following: unprocessed information is useless. And one of the ways in which information is processed is through good communication in the workplace.

All the business elements that come into play must be given solid information to work with. Every company has multiple sectors, and each of those sectors is further divided into smaller work environments. The lack of communication, or even poor communication – will result in unsatisfactory business results. When we say “communication”, there are two main aspects: communication of ideas and communication of orders. One cannot go without the other.

Communication of ideas focuses on presenting the employees with the company’s vision and general ideas: brand identity, work culture, etc. Every employee has to be aware of this at all times. Communication of orders revolves around day-to-day activities that are essential to the long-term success of the company. Orders stem directly from ideas, but they are more on the practical side of things. It’s like hardware and software on a computer – both are equally important.

To put it simply, when it comes to communication in the workplace – no stone can be left unturned. Everyone, from the CEO to the last employee in the chain must be connected into a single network of work information that’s spread across the company.

Every company is based on a single story: stories are what drives us, and we absolutely depend on them. Make sure that your company story is a positive one, and tell it to all of your employees, top to bottom. This will enable you to execute your vision effortlessly.

Maintaining Discipline

Discipline is essential if you want to achieve your business goals. If there isn’t enough discipline in your work process, you will experience numerous problems along the way. It is important that you have a work calendar and adhere to it throughout the work week.

Oftentimes, you might find it hard to stay on schedule and not miss an important point – but this is when it’s absolutely necessary that you do it. Remember this: your priorities don’t mean a thing unless you back them up with your work discipline. Discipline is an integral part of the execution process in any business.

 

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Lean Principles In An Office Environment

In order to make the most of what Lean has to offer, you should start from your office environment as the core of your work process. Once you effectively implement Lean into your offices, everything will fall into place, and you will notice a significant rise in your productivity.

Why is Lean important in an office environment?

The simplest explanation would be that Lean is there to increase the work process speed and reduce waste as much as possible. By helping accomplish this, it will add value to every task performed and, ultimately, will increase the productivity of the company as a whole.

The work process speed is increased by cutting away everything that slows it down, such as unwanted or unnecessary tasks. Waste reduction is achieved through elimination of everything that is considered waste in an office environment:

  • Processing errors (general rework, missing information, lost files, etc.).
  • Uncontrolled production cycles (producing too much or too little, depending on the business strategy).
  • Idle time (awaiting approvals, delays in the work process, being late, etc.).
  • Unnecessary motion (staff members moving around the workplace without any particular need or connection to their given tasks).

Why should you implement Lean in your office?

First of all, Lean will help you easily identify all the problem areas in your work surroundings. You will spend significantly less time on figuring out what to do, and you will have a clearer understanding of your potential business strategy.

Furthermore, you will increase your efficiency and save a lot of financial resources along the way. Once your office environment becomes “Lean-friendly”, all of your staff members will know exactly what they need to do, and their targets will be met much more effectively. By doing away with everything that is redundant, you will be able to focus on the essential aspects of your work process; in turn, this will cut costs and contribute to your financial wellbeing.

Also, implementing Lean into your office areas will simplify the entire work process for your company. You will have a much clearer picture of the priorities, while the paperwork gets cut down to the bare minimum. Lean principles are excellent when it comes to prioritizing work tasks within a given process. You will find the most logical way in which to perform a certain task and, as a direct result of this, the whole work process will flourish.

Once Lean practices are fully integrated into your work process, the morale of your employees will become stronger. They will know exactly what they are doing, and the entire working atmosphere will be much better.

How to implement Lean in an office environment?

1. Redefining meetings

Business meetings have to be as short and effective as possible. A good practice would be to set a strict time for meetings within each working area (department, section, etc.) and to maintain the meeting schedule on a continuous basis.

Enough time should pass between two meetings, in order to improve their effectiveness. Each meeting should have only a couple of topics on the agenda, or only one topic – the most important one. During the meeting, only relevant questions should be asked.

2. Introducing the 5S Principle

This is a Lean principle for structuring the work process through strict categories and sub-categories for better work optimization.

  • Sorting – separating the necessary from the unnecessary
  • Simplifying – doing away with everything that makes the work process complicated
  • Shining (cleaning) – regular cleaning and inspection of the office area
  • Standardizing – establishing strict guidelines for keeping the work area organized and fully-functioning
  • Sustaining – keeping the office productivity on a certain level, and coming up with new ways for improvement
3. Ongoing employee education

Organizing workshops, seminars, lectures and educational classes for all staff members, making sure they are all fully engaged and attentive.

This way, employees will be highly informed on the new developments within their industry, and they will be more capable of focusing on their daily tasks in the most productive way possible.

4. Employee cross-training

By being cross-trained for multiple positions, employees can:

  • learn a set of different skills
  • become more aware of the entire work process
  • understand the importance of every work task
  • increase their own work flexibility
  • stay focused and motivated throughout the work week
  • become deeply engaged in the work process
  • develop problem-solving abilities
  • value the importance of teamwork
  • embrace company culture and work ethics
  • increase company productivity on a continuous basis

These are just some of the Lean principles for an office environment, but even small changes can bring considerable improvements to any office environment.

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Common Mistakes In The Service Sector And How You Can Solve Them

Along with the advancement of new technologies, customers are becoming more sophisticated, more informed and self-reliant. This puts an additional strain on the companies involved in the service industry as it requires them to become sharper and more effective. Any mistakes and inefficiencies can eventually affect customer satisfaction. The good news is that mistakes can be corrected. See if you’re making any of these and what you can do about them.

Mistake 1: Cutting Costs by Offshoring

In this day and age, many companies choose to offshore a portion of the work that they perform, such as customer service, as a means of reducing costs. While in certain cases offshoring can be an extremely effective way of acquiring talent that would otherwise not be available, doing it solely for the purpose of cutting costs can actually hurt your business.

Offshoring often creates disconnection both within the team and in the business-customer relationship. When customers reach out to the companies, they expect a certain kind of service and may be disappointed if what they receive if not what they were looking for.

Solution: Optimizing Existing Employee Productivity

Since the main argument for offshoring is cutting costs, the same can be achieved by training employees how to optimize their productivity and “eliminate the waste” in their work process. Some of the ways in which it can be done are the following:

  • Teaching how to manage time more efficiently
  • Instructing how to set goals and plan in advance
  • Teaching how to prioritize tasks
  • Discovering additional skills and talents that employees have and offering ways to use them in the workplace
  • Providing clean and comfortable working environment that motivates the employees

Mistake 2: Following Outdated Business Processes

When performing different business processes either with your team or by yourself, you follow a set of steps that makes a task easier and more efficient. Frequently, those used by the company are considered to be set in stone and are rarely if ever changed. Given that everything around us constantly changes and evolves, business processes may become outdated. This may not only decrease the quality of service and make your customers trust you less, but can also demotivate the employees.

Here are some signs that indicate that you may need to update your existing business processes:

  • Dissatisfied customers
  • Increase in negative feedback or reviews from customers
  • Demotivated colleagues and/or employees
  • Missed deadlines
  • Increased expenses

Solution: Regularly Redesigning business Processes

In order to avoid or solve this mistake, business processes need to be continuously revised and updated. And that should be done with the help and input of the employees, because they are the ones who know what and why does not work as intended.

In order to streamline business processes, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Create a schematic of your current process.
  2. Identify the existing weak links. In order to do so you can pay attention to your customers’ feedback. What frustrated or dissatisfies them? What do they complain about? Don’t forget to also pay attention to your colleagues, subordinates, and employees. What frustrates and deflates them? What take them too much time to complete and causes them to miss their deadlines? What requires additional funding?
  3. Redesign your existing processes to eliminate the weak links. Make sure you find a way of involving your team in the process as they may have unique ideas of how these problems can be approached.
  4. Take the actions necessary to implement the changes. Take into consideration the potential expenses that may be required, e.g., additional software or other resources.
  5. Monitor the changes implemented and whether they have brought the desired result.

Keep in mind that changes won’t always equal to immediately improved results. Sometimes, you may be required to adjust the process multiple times. That is not only normal, but natural.

Mistake 3: Lack of People Skills

Some of the greatest mistakes that are made in the service sector are often caused by lack of people skills such as the ability to listen and deal with conflicts and criticism. Because of this, those directly working with customers may not listen to them properly, argue with them, and leave customers feeling like they are being treated like numbers rather than people.

Most standard workplace trainings cover the technicalities of the job, familiarize workers with company policies and standards. However, very rarely they cover essential skills.

Solution: Training Staff for Intrapersonal Skills

Some of the most required interpersonal skills in the service sector are:

  1. Active listening: paying attention to what someone else is saying and responding accordingly
  2. Empathy: understanding how someone feels and being able to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes”
  3. Criticism: how to offer constructive criticism without offending and how to receive constructive criticism without taking offense
  4. Disagreeing: how to respectfully disagree during an argument
  5. Communication: the ability to correctly convey ideas verbally and non-verbally
  6. Negotiation: coming to an agreement with someone who has a conflicting opinion
  7. Problem-solving: effectively solving personal and team problems
  8. Teamwork: ability to effectively complete tasks as a part of a team

These are not only effective in improving employee-customer relationships, but also those between employees, both of which are important for any business involved in the service industry.
There are multiple ways in which interpersonal skills can be improved, such as taking an online class, attending an interpersonal skills class, or hiring a consultant.

Are you making any of these mistakes? What are your approaches to solving them? Don’t hesitate to share your opinion with us.

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