5 Ways to Streamline Your Work Process: Inspired by the Factory Floor

Do you need to cut waste from your workflow to grow your business more efficiently? Most of us do, and many of the answers can be found in methods that manufacturers’ have been using for decades. Here are a few tips borrowed from the factory floor that have helped me cut waste and work more efficiently. Be sure to outline your goals and strategies so that you can map out how to achieve each one.

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1. Organize your workstation

Your environment plays a key role in your work productivity. If you have a home office, a design lab, or even a table at a coffee shop, you should organize your tools (pens, paper, laptop) in a efficient way that accommodates each object’s use and frequency of use. Eliminate all clutter at the start of every day. Filmmaker, Casey Neistat’s studio is a great example of how makers can organize space for greater efficiency. He uses a system made up of thirty-nine inexpensive red boxes placed across seven shelves to organize the chaos of hundreds of small things. If organizing things alphabetically doesn’t work (like in Casey’s situation) try using the grouping methodology to store and easily locate similar items.

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2. Make a tactile to-do list

My favorite method is derived from Toyota’s Kanban board, a physical tool (an online version of this tool also exists at Kanban Tool) for visual communication management based on a principle of continuous improvement and task tracking. For this step, use a board or large white sheet of paper and multicolored post its. Color coordinate each bigger goal (ie. ‘building a social media presence’ tasks are the orange post it). Write manageable tasks on each Post-It. Then, prioritize the Post-its. This method also works in team environments where each person should write their name on a post it/task they intend to complete. Once the task is complete, you can shred it or keep it for future reference.

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3. Systematize your process by establishing a rhythm.

Establish a daily, weekly, and monthly rhythm to create productive habits similar to the flow and layout used on a production line. Remember to take breaks. If you’re running a small business, create an environment where team members feel comfortable eating lunch away from the office or even grabbing some fresh air. If you have the office space, trying creating a break room or decompression zone. Although your startup hasn’t yet reached the scale of tech companies like Google, take notes from the generous perks and benefits they offer their employees. Try establishing mandatory 15 minute breaks and a hour lunch requirement for employees. Team breaks present the perfect opportunity to find inspiration and brainstorm.

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4. Outsource difficult tasks

Some factories are vertically integrated. Some specialize in one area. If you run a small business, it doesn’t make sense to take on all projects by yourself. There are people and companies willing to assist in tasks that aren’t really your specialty. For non-specialized tasks that you don’t have time to do, Task Rabbit and Fiverr can help. For projects that involve sewing or pattern-making, Maker’s Row is a great resource for finding services and factories that specialize in this.

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5. Evaluate your performance

Once the goal is reached, the process isn’t finished yet; it’s a continuous cycle based on researching, planning, executing, and evaluating. It helps to write a list of expectations for the goals. If those are reached, then bravo! If not, then try evaluating and questioning any weak points. Was your social media engagement low this month? Did you go over your operating budget? Did you miss a deadline? Find the flaws in your system and adjust for the next round.

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What are some tactile ways that help you visualize and tackle all of your tasks? Share in the comments below!

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