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Simple Solutions to Complex Problems
A North East of England Internet business uses simple offline ideas to boost its productivity.
Slimming Solutions is based on the Tyne Tunnel Trading Industrial Estate in North Shields. This award winning company supplies a comprehensive range of weight loss aids, turning over 300 orders every week.
Kerry Scott founded Slimming Solutions 11 years ago and employs four people. By the summer of 2010 she knew that she needed to improve how she managed her business, as she and her team were struggling to do more and more in less and less time.
It was around this time that Giles Johnston of Smartspeed Consulting was recommended to her.
“The first thing he did was to shadow us,” Kerry Scott explains, “watch how we did things. He assessed every aspect of our business, from the reception of orders to dispatch of goods.”
Giles quickly identified two main areas of concern: Time and information management.
His solutions were surprisingly simple but very effective. He firstly introduced changes to how IT was used. Kerry explains, “Before Giles came to us, all our orders were processed manually. Each had to be typed onto a spreadsheet;
“My knowledge of Excel was strictly limited, I knew very little about use of mathematical formula but Giles is an expert. He produced templates for specific products and to automate other related tasks. Now, managing incoming orders is all done with the push of a button.”
This enables the tracking of activities that need to be undertaken every day. It is a simple but effective technique that Giles Johnston has introduced for numerous clients operating in various industries.
Each red card represents a task that needs doing. In the case of Slimming Solutions, the Task Cards were set up on a notice board by the main office door.
As each task is completed, the card is turned over. The reverse is green, indicating job done. Kerry Scott has been amazed by how use of Task Cards has improved her company’s efficiency.
Kerry and her team now meet at 12noon every day for 10 minutes. These catch-ups serve a dual purpose: to assess how the day has gone so far and in what ways the Slimming Solutions team has moved the business on.
The meetings include action plans for unresolved problems. Typical of these might be the dispatching of two products to a customer when four were ordered or the sending of a wrong sized item.
Before the introduction of these weekly summits there may have been several such problems each day. Thanks to the daily meet-ups, these have been reduced to perhaps one a week.
Kerry and her team also meet every Thursday at 3pm, typically for 30 minutes. These events are similar to the mid-day discussions but assess the progress of the business over that week.
“I think the real benefit of what Giles Johnston has done for us is to join up our business processes,” Kerry says. “Previously, all the functions of the business, from taking an order to dispatching goods, were separate activities.
“We had information on stock control and customer details stored all over the place: on PCs, on paper, in e-mails. Now we have a much more holistic product management and stock control system.
“This has been achieved through implementing simple but effective techniques, such as the Task Cards and better use of technology.
“Giles has brought real insight into my business. A good example of this is how he quickly identified our top 12 selling products. He then introduced a strategy to focus our efforts on the marketing and selling of these products.
“I use my time much more effectively and my every decision is informed by the need to move the business forwards.”
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Smartspeed Consulting work in the area of Operations Management helping organisations to simplify and straighten out their business processes.
Giles Johnston specialises in the areas of business process design, scheduling / capacity management and productivity.