Whether your business is a small challenger in a big market or a major multinational firm, operating efficiently is critical for growth and long-term survival. Businesses of all sizes are investing in continuous improvement; however, unlike large businesses, SMEs cannot delegate this work to a specialised team or outsource it to consultants. As a small business owner or manager, it is your role to grease the wheels so here are seven tips for SMEs to boost efficiency.
Fewer, Shorter Meetings
Meetings are a necessity in most businesses, but they can blow out to the point where they eat into productive time. Small businesses need to keep meetings short and to the point; many businesses find that holding a quick standup at the start of the day is a great alternative to ‘got a minute’ impromptu meetings that distract team members throughout the day.
Automate Where Possible
In most businesses, an excessive amount of time is wasted on administration, data entry and sharing information between various users. Small businesses should be looking at ways of automating straightforward processes. Your staff should not be manually entering barcode numbers into Excel spreadsheets for example, ideally, you’d implement barcode scanning to automate data entry into an online inventory management system instead.
Use Inventory Management Software
In an inventory-centric business, keeping track of stock movements is critically important. Online inventory management software helps you keep track of every moving part from procurement right through to delivery of a completed product. Importantly, inventory management software helps prevent ‘stock outs’ and excess inventory building up.
Internally managing IT infrastructure and services is possible, but employing capable IT professionals is expensive. Moreover, when something goes wrong, the buck stops with you. Small businesses are increasingly finding that outsourcing their IT requirements to external providers is a good way to reduce both operational costs and capital expenditure. By using online inventory management software and other SaaS applications, your business can access highly reliable IT solutions at a reasonable price.
Multitasking is attractive because it appears to be efficient – who doesn’t want to get more done in the same amount of time? Unfortunately, the efficiency gains from multitasking are a myth. Encourage team members to prioritise competing workstreams and to devote their attention to the task at hand.
Make it Easier to Collaborate
Getting teams throughout the business working together is a straightforward way to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Talk to your staff and stakeholders to find out what kind of communication tools would make their day-to-day lives easier. Consider implementing shared task boards, Kanbans, videoconferencing and instant messaging.
Stick to Processes
Many businesses develop detailed processes for carrying out core business functions. When teams are under pressure, the temptation to skip a step can be strong. Resist the pressure to cut corners; remember, you invested in these processes to prevent important steps being missed, and going back will add time and stress later. For example, when inventory arrives in, follow the proper process and scan each pallet in to your online inventory management system. This keeps inventory levels accurate and prevents confusion later in the production process.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.