It's all about time
October 15, 2009 | 7:00 pm CDT

Efficiency is about time, obviously the less time spent on the work to be done the more efficient a shop must become. The facts of the matter are that much time is spent on things which have no value in the eyes of the customer. The customer hears only the promise you make and appreciates the quality and utility of the finished product.

Start with a list

To deliver on this promise, we need to do many things the customer does not see nor care about. How then do we value these tasks that apparently have no value?

The first step to take is to list all of the tasks to be accomplished to run the business and add the number of minutes allotted to these. Start with the first phone call received to the last call checking if the customer is happy with all aspects of the product and service provided. Use a typical job as a guideline. Then take out the value as seen by the customer. Typically you will be left with a figure in the order of 70 percent of the time spent without any value.

Take a hard look at this remaining list and ask yourself everyday which of these tasks can you omit or simplify? You may have lines stating things like: Called vendor for board costs, 5 minutes; sent Joe to collect hinges, 60 minutes; spoke to door salesman, 25 minutes; material take off, 30 minutes; set up CNC machine, 10 minutes; and so forth. Clearly these tasks can be avoided. There are others less obvious and it will take time to come to grips with reducing and eliminating these.

Time versus value

The conventional wisdom is this: The more variety of activity is done on a daily basis by the same people the less efficient an organization becomes. This is ever more so the smaller the organization.

Avoid therefore the unforeseen, such as machine breakages by introducing a simple preventative maintenance schedule. Determine items which need to be inventoried versus those to be specially purchased for a given job. Standardize aspects of the product and the processes which have no value to the customer.

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About the author
Gero Sassenberg

Gero Sassenberg has decades of experience in the woodworking industry on three continents, specialized in management and engineering consulting to cabinet and furniture manufacturers. He focuses on continuous improvement resulting in greater growth and profitability. He was a regular contributor to CabinetMaker and CabinetMakerFDM for many years.