Reduce Non-Value-Added Computer Time to Increase Time on the Shop Floor

A station manager recently confided to me that he was frustrated that he was mandated to get his supervisors out on the shop floor at least 50% of their days at work. "How can I do that when 70% of their work is on the computer?" he lamented.

I felt his pain; I thought the same when I heard the mandate. While it was a mandate that was well meaning and definitely needed, the fact remained that administrative work in the office/on computers required well over half of every day for his supervisors. We both knew that his supervisors would have to either work longer days or shirk some of their necessary duties on the computer.

There is a third option, however. That option is a much-needed option and one that most station managers in his situation won't even consider.

That option is to reduce or eliminate many of the "necessary" tasks on the computer.

While most industries have optimized processes on the shop floor to the point that the low-hanging fruits are long-gone, many low-hanging fruits still reside in the computer lives of management employees.

The correct answer for the station managers in his position is to immediately seek increased efficiency in the computer lives of the supervisors.

One possible improvement is to improve the computing skills of the supervisors. Many of them were promoted right off the shop floor and moved into their positions with minimal computer skills. That takes time, however. While very much needed, this improvement will take too long to implement.

There are three other fast improvements that can be made in this situation:

  1. Temporarily dedicate a tech-savvy employee to shadow a supervisor each day and recommend immediate improvements, such as building email rules, organizing files, cleaning up desktops, and teaching the very simple behaviors that many supervisors do not know are possible. This should take no more than four hours per supervisor.
  2. Implement Microsoft Teams to eliminate all need for email management. Teams has many features, but for fast results, simply require all internal communications to be placed in the Team persistent chat section and all private communications to be handled via the Chat button. This will require about two hours of training and two hours of hands-on practice in a group. It will eliminate a large amount of time spent managing email and allow supervisors to manage their communications while on the shop floor if it can be done safely.
  3. Move all group-maintained or referenced spreadsheets/logs/reports to SharePoint custom lists, aggregate views of those lists on user-friendly SharePoint pages (and place those pages on tabs in their Teams). With a SharePoint-knowledgeable administrator, that could happen in less than a month. While more complex than Teams, low-hanging fruit can be quickly harvested and the savings are very much worth hiring a good SharePoint designer or consultant.

I'll outline each of these steps in future blog posts.

I imagine many of this station manager's peers will simply mandate that their supervisors spend 50% of their time on the shop floor without working to streamline their workdays. I predict longer workdays for those supervisors and/or fudged reports about time spent on the floor. Neither is good.

As for the station manager I spoke with? He is already planning implementation of all three steps and I'm sure his supervisors will thank him.

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