Every mailer has something they want to improve about their operation. It takes too long to set up a new job. Run-rate is too slow. Productivity lags behind industry peers. There are new regulations that require compliance. Production costs could, or need, to be lower. Capacity needs to increase. Newer technology becomes available. They want to achieve more with less.
It’s especially easy to point fingers at the hardware because if it’s not running as fast or efficiently as you want it to, then that must mean the machine is the problem. But it’s never just the machine alone. Although mailers may look at equipment as a means to an end, the truth is that hardware is only one part of a bigger workflow ecosystem.
If mailers want to improve their workflows, they need to change the way they think about the value of their operations. They need to take a step back to get a view of the bigger picture: not just the technology, but the people and processes too, and how these parts all work together - or don’t.
Most of the time, the issue isn’t the machine itself but how the machines are being used by operators. If something isn’t running fast enough or achieving expected runtimes, odds are the problem goes beyond the machine.
The real problem most likely lies within your workflow
If it’s not just the equipment, then what are the real issues? Typically, they can be attributed to three underlying factors:
- Workcell management. Are you achieving the most from your environment? Operators need to be held accountable for certain objectives. The operator’s typical mindset is to perform a job and then move on to the next one, rather than working toward concrete goals or results.
- Lack of a feedback loop. If something’s not working on the floor, operators usually know why. But managers and supervisors – either because they’re too far removed or aren’t listening – don’t get that feedback and consequently can’t act on it.
- Lack of oversight or visibility from the top. When managers or supervisors aren’t getting feedback or information from real data, they end up making decisions based on gut feelings.
Turning quick wins into long-term successes
If the issue lies with the workflow, then how can mailers improve their workflows to meet their goals?
Small changes can add up to big impacts. For example, ensuring all operators are certified and trained, or implementing basic maintenance routines to ensure all machines are running efficiently and aligned with internal objectives, are simple steps that can accumulate into major improvements. Incremental progress creates opportunities for feedback, and also helps to improve morale and change the overall approach to the job. It gets management more engaged and involved with operators. Something as small as having managers walk the floor more often goes a long way in creating stronger communications with operators, building feedback cycles and making it easier to spot gaps in the workflows.
For any senior business leader, the biggest roadblock is often justifying the spend for new equipment, services and upgrades. Taking a holistic view of workflows – how people, technology and processes influence each other – to determine why equipment may either not be working to its full potential or may not be the right fit for a given workflow, and what can be done to change that, is what creates the ROI that justifies the need for new hardware, software and service upgrades.
That workflow analysis would be important to conduct even if it wasn’t a case of systems either not working or simply being too old. Often, enterprises have already stocked their mailing operations with cutting-edge equipment where the issue isn’t that the machines are too old or aren’t working properly. Rather, it’s often the case that mailers simply need help using it all in conjunction with each other, and doing so as efficiently as possible. Maybe they’re running short jobs on systems that were designed for longer runs. In that case, the efficiency outputs you would normally get from those high-volume assets are being lost because the equipment is being used for multiple small jobs that each require their own set-up time. In that scenario, the equipment may be working just fine as is, but the way it’s being used is counter-productive to both what it was designed for and what the ultimate business goals are – both of which would be identified in a workflow analysis.
At the end of the day, it's never just one machine, or just one operator using something incorrectly, or just one large system that needs to be complemented by a smaller one. It’s never any of these one factors, but rather the entire ecosystem around them. And once mailers understand this, and can begin making improvements accordingly, they’ll see their output finally begin to align more with their goals and needs.
That’s what BlueCrest brings to the table. While vendors may prescribe new hardware as cure-alls, we take the big-picture, holistic view of your workflows, leveraging data and analytics to help you maximise the productivity of your people, processes and technology. Our approach is informed by years of experience and expertise in helping other businesses successfully reduce labor costs, improve runtimes and create more efficient, productive mailer operations. We’re a real technology partner and we’ll treat you like a real partner, taking the time to carefully examine your workflows and determine what next steps work best for you.