There are always ways to improve how you do things.
But many businesses owners and managers think they don’t have the time, the way they’ve always done things is the right way, they don’t want to grow the business any further, or they simply don’t know where to begin.
It is possible to compete with overseas companies—by being smarter. How does Germany export to so many countries? It’s not because their labour is cheap or their living standard so low. Companies need to challenge themselves to do things differently, because if they don’t their competitor will.
When ICN NSW came across Efficiency Works, it was clear that many businesses could benefit from companies like them. So we reached out to Robert Briffa, who heads up Business Development for Efficiency Works, to get some ideas for Australian manufacturers that can help them to invest in their future.
Robert believes that there’s no downside to taking the time to invest in your business. He joined Efficiency Works in 2020 after it was acquired by Synergy People, a HR performance company.
“Efficiency Works was created by two engineers and started operating in 2007 in Queensland. Over the years it grew to be a national business and also did some work in New Zealand. Synergy People had been looking to expand into individual performance and organisation performance, so it was a good fit,” says Robert.
Efficiency Works offers consultancy, education and training.
Key clients are typically those with many repeatable processes including manufacturers, distributors, government agencies, professional services, energy suppliers and companies in the mining and construction sectors.
“We work with medium to large businesses that need some help to upskill their employees or improve efficiencies through better processes,” he says.
The company is a Registered Training Organisation and has developed its own methodologies and training, as well as using recognised practices, such as Lean and Agile.
“For construction-related businesses, we find that there are always ways to improve project management.
“In larger companies there could be whole team of people doing project management, but in a smaller company project management might be just one of the tasks that an employee does.
“We offer online, self-paced project management and agile training courses to help with this,” says Robert.
Theory’s exciting when you see it in action
Robert finds that by moving quickly from introducing theory to applying it to practical pieces of work means that clients can understand how changes can impact the business and often see immediate savings or improvements to processes.
“Our consultancy is all about sitting with a client, working out what their strategy is, diagnosing their business from both a process and people perspective. And then seeing where the gaps are and suggesting which methodologies fit and the training that will take the organisation to get where it wants to go,”
“We did some work with Austral Precast, which is in the manufacturing and construction sector, and they said that the Lean training that we did for them was informative and practical for all areas of the business.
“They liked that we applied theory to actual issues that are relevant to their business. Once they started looking at the business more objectively they saw ways to improve things on the factory floor and also in the back office. It fundamentally changed the way they operate,” Robert says.
Impact of technology
Assessing data for insights on how a business is really performing is key. While methodologies have remained the same, technology has played a huge part in changing the way that data is collected.
“To do a time-and-motion study in the past, someone would have sat down, observed the action with a stopwatch and wrote it down. Then we moved on to videoing it and having someone watch it back later with a stopwatch and the pause button.
“Now we have time-lapse photography set-ups that we put into businesses to do that automatically and we work with companies to assess how the company’s software is being used by people and the processes that are being undertaken,” says Robert.
How businesses can improve the way that they operate
“Creating space for change gives businesses the opportunity to evaluate goals, look at different or better ways of doing things, and helps employees to feel invested in the process and the business itself. Whether it leads to overhauling all aspects of the business or just a few minor tweaks, your business will be stronger for it and you’ll have a better understanding of it and where you’re taking it in to the future,” says Ian Hudson, ICN NSW’s Executive Director.
Efficiency Works mainly works with companies that employ 100+ people, but Robert advises that any size (or type) of business would benefit from reviewing their people and processes.
“There are huge gains to be made in assessing what isn’t working, identifying where improvements can be made, applying a revised process and then reviewing the impact of the new approach,” he says.
“Even if you’re a business that is focused on the next project, there are still opportunities to improve the way you run your business and make it more efficient. Whether it’s your tendering processes, how you identify and decide on new opportunities, and seeing if there are any steps that are not adding value,” says Robert.
Robert says one of their clients, Rhino-Rack, which manufacture roof racks and accessories, started as a small business and now has more than 200 employees and supplies to 52 countries.
“We taught them Lean theory and helped them in a number of areas, including making their major productions lines more efficient. Rhino-Rack has told us that production is increasing, there is less overtime, less re-work, and quality has improved.
“We didn’t do it for them—our job was getting Rhino-Rack to think about how they can do things better,” says Robert.
If you are thinking about continuous improvement and being more efficient, Robert recommends making time to speak to a professional consultant who can help you identify where to start and how to empower your team as you introduce changes.
“Businesses need to invest in their teams because effective and enthusiastic employees who feel valued and listened to will have a huge, positive impact on the change process,” says Robert.