When it comes to achieving supply chain labor efficiencies, optimizing each team member’s every movement is critical. Taking any unnecessary extra steps or performing specific job tasks out of order can add costs and waste valuable time when done repeatedly, day after day. To achieve maximum efficiency, each task and associated task sequence throughout all inbound and outbound activities should be engineered to ensure there’s no wasted movement. Engineering efforts should also be administered in a way that keeps employee safety at the forefront. Both are accomplished by developing ‘preferred methods,’ which is the process of documenting all detailed steps required to complete a specific job or task effectively.
In the supply chain software world, preferred methods are typically created during the implementation of a Labor Management System (LMS). Unfortunately, many organizations tend to overlook this step. These organizations often fail to realize how important this documentation is to the success of the overall project.
There are many benefits to developing and implementing preferred methods relative to a company’s workforce planning process:
The first step in developing and implementing preferred methods is involving a variety of employees in discussions regarding how a specific job/task should be completed. This includes working with floor associates, leads, supervisors, and management to define and agree on the safest, most efficient way to perform the job. This exercise helps gain buy-in from employees prior to the rollout of full engineered labor standards and reporting, because they feel that they own the process and their voice is important. It also helps floor associates feel comfortable communicating with managers and engineers. Employees who feel they are part of the bigger picture and have a voice in how things are run are more likely to be satisfied in their jobs.
Creating preferred methods is a key step to shoring up all processes that will eventually be enabled as standards within the LMS. This documentation process provides an opportunity to detect and “lean-out” existing steps and weed out inefficiencies before they become part of—and negatively affect—daily operations. Ultimately, the chances for sustaining the success of the LMS implementation are greatly increased by having the operations team fully involved with the industrial engineers from the start of the implementation project.
Another key benefit of using preferred methods is that the engineering team charged with creating and implementing engineered labor standards has a head start as they define the expected average completion time for each task. The newly created preferred methods documentation serves as a step-by-step framework from which an engineer can create standards using predetermined time systems (MOST, MSD, etc.). Having preferred methods in place can help expedite this development work.
Finally, a preferred methods document is highly effective for long-term use in training new employees or coaching existing ones. This documentation can be used as training material for new hires to ensure they follow the correct steps when carrying out a job. This gives them the best opportunity to perform at or above the expected performance level. Supervisors can also use preferred methods in observing and coaching existing employees who may not be achieving expected performance levels within their department. The preferred methods establish a neutral, agreed-upon reference that acts as a guide for teaching and encouraging new behaviors that benefit the organization—and ultimately, the employee.
It’s common for many companies to overlook this seemingly trivial step of documenting preferred methods when implementing an LMS. Nevertheless, skipping this process will almost certainly cause hardships during labor standards development, auditing, and rollout. Preferred methods documentation is a vital part of the long-term success of any LMS implementation.