Lost productivity costs the economy billions of dollars every year. That’s why it’s vital for all businesses to regularly assess and evaluate their key work processes to ensure workflow bottlenecks aren’t killing productivity.

All businesses are essentially a collection of work processes that are geared toward achieving a common goal.

Think of it like this: you need a manufacturing process to make a product, you need a sales and marketing process to sell it, and you need a fulfilment and logistics process to deliver it. If any of these processes fail, then so does the business.

There are many workflows contained within each of these processes that must also work in concert to achieve a common outcome. Bottlenecks within any of these workflows can throw off the efficient operation of your business and significantly hurt your productivity.

That’s why balanced deployment is so important. It’s a concept that businesses are using to rethink how their equipment is selected and deployed in order to better support more efficient workflows.

For example, Brother is using the balanced deployment concept to help businesses redesign their print strategies. This involves replacing the central print hub with a series of smaller ‘print pods’ to achieve a smoother workflow and better productivity for staff. But more on that later.

Before you can put balanced deployment to work in your business, you must first figure out where there is room for improvement in your workflows.

How to IDENTIFY workflow bottlenecks

To identify a bottleneck you must first map the workflow to understand exactly how it functions. To do this, break each workflow into a series of concurrent steps, and express it visually in a flowchart.

Now determine what each step in the flowchart should be achieving. Compare the required results for each step against its current performance. Any significant gaps here could be a signal that a workflow bottleneck is at play.

How to DIAGNOSE workflow bottlenecks

Workflow bottlenecks tend to be either operator or systems-based. Operator-based bottlenecks come down to your people. Perhaps an employee is holding up the workflow because they are under-resourced, undertrained or simply underperforming.

Systems-based bottlenecks are usually to do with your software or equipment. These can be more difficult to identify and more complex to solve.

Take in-office printing as an example. Over the past decade or so, many businesses adopted a central printing model in which personal desktop printers were replaced with a sophisticated central print station that serviced a high number of employees.

This model can in some cases cause a systems-based bottleneck as print jobs are delayed in long print queues, staff lose time walking to the print station at the other end of the office, or a service interruption takes the entire print station offline.

How to SOLVE workflow bottlenecks

Solving performer-based bottlenecks is relatively simple. Once they’ve been mapped, it’s usually a relatively simple matter of providing additional resources, training or support to the employee or employees in question. This may involve group training or even getting input into re-mapping workflows to ensure they’re fit for purpose and will be used by all relevant team members.

Systems-based bottlenecks, however, can go undiagnosed for years. This is often because of a pervading ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude within the organisation. But once they have been diagnosed, they need to be addressed as a priority because they can cause problems and inefficiencies that drag on productivity and, ultimately, profitability.

And better processes benefit everyone. This is easily seen in the printing example. Businesses put up with the inefficiencies of central print stations for years. However, a new trend to balanced deployment is finally tackling the problem by replacing the central print station with a series of smaller ‘print pods’ that service fewer employees in order to shorten print queues, are located physically closer to employees to reduced lost time, and can be bypassed in the event of a service interruption.

In this example, we see that a process doesn’t have to be broken to be inefficient. Identifying and diagnosing workflow inefficiencies, then working to solve both performers- and systems-based bottlenecks isn’t necessarily just about fixing what is broken. It’s also about improving what already works.

The first step to solving the problem is to evaluate your current bottlenecks. Brother can help – just ask us how.

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