When you’re running a business, there are two ways to increase profit:
- Increase revenue
- Decrease cost
Let’s focus on number two. Even seemingly insignificant savings can add up over time. Shaving just two cents off your landed cost per unit by increasing operational efficiency can add millions of dollars to your bottom line in the long run. This is why operations managers are so fundamental to a company’s ability to stay profitable.
While the pace of technology innovation moves at breakneck speed and businesses rush to catch up to the latest trends, operations managers play an increasingly important role in carving out a competitive edge. As we embark on the “next normal” for businesses in a world that has been rocked by a global pandemic, operations managers are more important than ever.
Operations is a broad job function. These leaders will be responsible for keeping the business running efficiently through the aftermath of COVID-19. They will also play a leading role in paving the way towards a new future for companies around the world.
So, whether you’re planning an organizational overhaul to become more competitive in your market or merely seeking to cut down on your overhead costs, staying ahead of these seven trends will help deliver the results you need to meet your operations management goals in 2020.
1. Streamlining Organizational Communication
There are countless communication tools for office workers: Slack, Teams, Flock, etc. But in reality, these tools only get half the job done. Workplace communication technology often leaves out frontline workers who represent 80% of the global workforce. Any employee who doesn’t work behind a desk needs a mobile communication solution in order to stay connected to the broader business, and do their job more effectively.
71% of frontline workers state that new communication tools increase their productivity.
What’s more, better communication can boost a manufacturer’s bottom line by 10%. This cost savings is the result of more timely communication between head office, team leads, and frontline workers. With less time spent in meetings, frontline managers can focus on leading their teams and improving performance, while eliminating non-value-added tasks.
Here’s a few other ways that streamlining organizational communication can save time and money by reducing. . .
- Time spent coordinating projects and tasks
- Time spent identifying and resolving issues
When teams are communicating, they get more done and they solve problems faster.
2. Mobile Communication Tools
Digitally enabling your frontline workforce is the singular most impactful investment you can make to optimize productivity, increase safety, and reduce costs in the current uncertain climate.
If your business’s operations and internal communications are not mobile, you may be leaving a critical part of your workforce out of the loop — frontline workers. Whether you’re in the technology industry and rely on mobile devices to achieve sales targets, or you’re in manufacturing and the company is facing constraints on output, mobile accessibility will play a vital role in operations management for 2020.
Apart from today’s reliance on mobile devices for communication, consumers also turn to their smart devices for everything from household goods to travel accommodations and job applications. When it’s all said and done, your frontline workforce will expect the same access, ease, and utility from their tools at work.
While researching digital workplaces or tools to digitally enable your teams, it’s important to keep in mind that leadership and frontline workers might take different criteria into account as it relates to their scope of work and priorities. One way to successfully navigate this potential area of divergence is to make sure a positive user experience is a core functionality.
On average, workers waste 3 hours of working time per week looking for information. If you have 1,000 frontline employees, that’s $800k on average wasted every month simply looking for information to do the job right.
Help your employees put that time to better use by providing a single point of contact for all their communications and tools.
Establishing outlets for mobile collaboration, like an employee app, enables a multitude of improvements to employee and overall workplace experience, including access to:
- Maintenance requests
- Shift handovers
- Updated SOPs
Mobile accessibility for remote staff allows them to access the information, tools, and connectivity they need to best perform their job regardless of their role within the organization. This is especially relevant for frontline workers who don’t have a company email address, or whose work requires an on-the-go communication solution. Mobile-first, digital enablement meets this need.
3. Extreme Efficiency Through Automatization
Research from McKinsey shows that up to 50% of all work performed today can already be automated with currently available technology.
Automating internal processes throughout your business can save money and increase overall efficiency. For industrial and heavy industries such as manufacturing, construction, and the energy sector, many companies are now exploring automation possibilities beyond the production line.
According to the McKinsey Report, “heavy industries typically have highly fragmented field workforces that operate separately from technology functions.”
In the past, the industrial sector has been somewhat slow to automate internal processes due to the fact that, “Lineworkers often prefer a high level of human involvement over digital tools.”
Despite some initial hesitation around adoption, we predict that the use of digital tools to automate processes and streamline communication will rise in 2020.
Learn how Seaboard Foods uses Beekeeper to increase operational efficiency.
We expect to see increased use of automatic scheduling and delivery of targeted internal media campaigns, work schedule notifications, and read-receipt functions in the company, which will further streamline daily operations for the organization.
4. Upskill Frontline Staff
Given the fact that businesses will be navigating through the aftermath of COVID-19 for months (and probably years) to come, operations managers will need to find creative ways to save their companies time and money.
One of the biggest pain points we hear from operations managers is that their companies are facing backlogs due to poorly trained frontline workers. In 2020, operations managers will be looking to shorten the amount of time it takes for a new hire time to ramp up with digitally accessible training videos, instructional guides, and how-to documents.
This kind of scalable digital enablement will also save time for frontline managers by converting time-consuming meetings and emails to fast, secure mobile messaging. With less time spent in meetings, managers can focus on making sure every member of their team is performing (and producing) at a high level.
5. Emphasis on Health and Safety
As companies work through and recover from the impact of COVID-19, maintaining the health and safety of both employees and the public will be a top priority for operations managers.
The number of health and safety issues reported each quarter is steadily increasing for many companies simply because employees don’t have access to the necessary information.
What’s more, it’s often difficult for organizations to find evidence and keep updated records of safety related issues and incidents.
It will be important for operations managers to look for new ways to reduce the number of health incidents and workplace accidents. This means companies will need to understand new regulations around safety and compliance, and it will be up to operations leaders to implement swift changes to internal processes and procedures in order to remain compliant.
Pro tip: Tools like Beekeeper can help reduce safety costs by $40,000 (each year) by making information accessible to everyone and giving frontline managers more time to train their teams.
6. Improving Demand Responsiveness
In 2020, operations managers will continue to hone and develop demand-responsive supply chains. Consumer spending habits are becoming increasingly fickle. Volatile market fluctuations are more common than ever as economies around the world are reeling from the impact of the coronavirus.
Operations managers will have to master the art of demand forecasting in order to ensure that inventory levels are consistent with current demand. Nobody knows how long-term consumer behaviors will change in the new post-COVID world.
Extreme surges in demand for some products may put stress on certain supply chains, while demand for other products will disappear entirely. The only thing that operations managers can be certain of is that they must find a way to be prepared for anything.
Too much inventory creates cash flow problems for businesses. At the same time, having the ability to fulfill large orders at the last minute is a must. Finding a balance between the two is key.
Having an agile, highly responsive supply chain can help ensure that production levels can steadily meet demand without creating excess inventory. Maintaining a healthy balance between inventory and meeting market demands will be a tricky dance that operations managers will have to quickly master.
7. Strengthening Customer Relationships
It’s essential that operations managers in 2020 understand the factors that influence buying decisions and optimize the business accordingly. The role of an operations manager is evolving beyond simply acting as an agent of cost control. Operations is increasingly tied to global performance objectives which encompass everything from product quality, delivery time, to customer service.
In 2020, operations managers will work closely with customer service departments to better understand their end-users. Relationship management is more important to running a successful business than ever, so it’s no surprise that operations managers will find new ways to optimize the process.
Going forward, strengthening these customer relationships will be critical as the world begins the long and steady road to recovery from the impact of the pandemic. Solid relationships based on real human empathy and compassion will outlast business setbacks caused by COVID-19.
Being customer-centric is now everyone’s job — including operations managers.