Do More with Less – The march of Productivity

Posted by Shankar Anant on Apr 15, 2020 3:11:12 PM

Productivity increase

What is the post-Covid 19 workplace going to look like? How will companies thrive? In some ways, it could be a very different world from as recently as 2019; or it could be more of the same as the past decade or two. Or the past century. The march of productivity has been going on for a very long time.

The simplest measure of productivity is output per given input. Since 1948, US farm output has increased 2.5 times while employing 75% less labor1. Per capita Gross Domestic Product(GDP), the single most important metric of the value of goods and services produced, has increased more than 4-fold over the same period2,3. In other words, we get to enjoy 4 times more goods and services today relative to 1948. Thanks to the march of productivity. The world is used to getting more with less.

How was this accomplished?

  • Replacing human effort by automation, mechanization, new technology, etc.
  • Eliminating or minimizing tasks that no one should be doing in the first place

The role of automation and mechanization in driving productivity has been widely headlined. Yet, eliminating unnecessary work takes as much innovation. From everyone, not just the specialists. 

In lean practice, 8 “wastes” are described – Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-utilized talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion and Excess processing, DOWNTIME. The practice of continuous improvement seeks to identify and eliminate waste. Widespread experience has shown that a very large part of typical work is wasteful or Non-Value-Added (NVA) as seen from the customer’s perspective, their willingness to pay for it. Some 95% or more is NVA. In this context, automating the 5% of value-added work makes little sense, eliminating the 95% does. The mother lode of productivity opportunity lies in getting rid of NVA. It takes real, consistent and collective human innovation to do so.

The term Standardized Work is a core lean concept. Standardized Work is the best-known current method of doing a task, using the best combination of people, materials, methods, machines. “Best” here means least wasteful. Or more output per given input of people/resources. In other words, do more with less. With the focus on eliminating that which should not be done at all. Productivity along with other benefits like Safety, Quality are realized by implementing Standardized Work. Additionally, Standardized Work lays the foundation of continuous improvement. It is a management tool.

When the world returns to normal, doing more with less could well become an urgent priority. How does your business measure productivity? Have you implemented standardized work in your workplace? Contact IMEC for more information on this or other topics related to continuous improvement.





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Shankar Anant

Written by Shankar Anant

Topics: waste reduction, continuous improvement, productivity, COVID-19

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