As an industrial engineer and consultant at West Monroe, I have spent a lot of my time creating or updating labor standards in food distribution facilities across the country. On these multi-week engagements, I collect every detail on processes that occur across many different job functions to give the most accurate standard possible. From the time an associate selects a case to be added to a pallet to the time the completed pallet is loaded into a truck to be shipped, every detail is captured so the standard can be as discrete as possible. The accuracy of these standards is critical because these companies have so much tied to the performance of their associates. Whether it is incentive pay, the ability to control costs, or managing the workforce, I help build the backbone for how their facilities operate.
Recently, I have traded in cases of French fries and bananas and moved into the world of medical equipment and devices. In contrast to the food distributors I’ve been working with, the client has no current standards in place. They are asking me to develop labor standards to help them manage their total costs. I’ve been forced to ask myself:
- How do you approach a standard build when the most granular level of detail is not necessary or needed?
- How do you determine how much information is enough information for what the client needs?
At first, the engineer in me had some issues adjusting to the idea that not every detail is necessary for what the client needs. Whether that is floor observations, or building out the steps for job processes, I have been so conditioned to want to capture and document everything I see to assure the proper times are being given that I hadn’t thought much about determining what to capture.
How have I reconciled my detailed approach with the client’s needs?
The first way is constant communication. I challenge myself to constantly ask “is this data necessary?” If it doesn’t help the client run better operations, the answer is no. An open dialogue among the team and with the client has allowed us to understand exactly what the client needs, see the bigger picture and develop a customized set of “standards” they can use to optimize productivity.
Secondly, I may not be capturing all the information but I know I am capturing the right information. It’s leveraging what I know from other labor standards I have built and molding them into something new. They may look nothing like the pallet picking standards I’ve created in the past, but they are positioning this medical device company to achieve meaningful – and sustainable – operational improvements. This is only the first of many sites that are to follow and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead!