Managing Time Involves Clarity About Your Priorities

Technology has transformed our perception of things. All sorts of information are readily available at the push of a button. You want to know how to cook just Google the name of the recipe. You want to learn how to repair your water tap go on YouTube. Our minds are constantly assailed by information every minute. Our privacy is constantly under pressure with the use of Smartphones: emails, What’s App?, BBM, etc. Has there been a day when you feel that you can totally ignore your Smartphone, Ipad, laptop?

You wish that it would be as simple as turning them off and not even feel guilty about it. Well, some of you have been courageous to take that first step and feel totally liberated or completely stressed out… Remember the time when there was no internet. Some of you can’t even picture it as you were too young. They were the times when a friend meant somebody whom you have actually met, talked to and shared many things together. When you wanted to know what was happening overseas, you had to buy the newspaper or waited for the TV or Radio news broadcast. Those were the days!!! You must be thinking where is she going with all this? Is she becoming nostalgic all of a sudden?

Our time management skills are constantly being challenged. There is a constant need to review your list of “To Do things” every day or sometimes every hour. At work, you are sometimes unable to complete what you have started due to more pressing matters. Being the perfectionist, this unfinished task is nagging you at the back of your mind. At home, there is always a list of things in progress – the laundry, the gardening, the food shopping list, the children’s homework. The list is endless. In the midst of all this, finding some “me time” makes you feel guilty or become a real luxury treat!

Effective time management is about setting your priorities in the right order. Right order does not mean those with the highest amount of pressure. Pressure is something that is perceived and constructed in your own mind. Your top priorities are those that are congruent with your values, norms and beliefs. There is a simple exercise that you can do on your own.

1. Your priorities list
List all the things that you would like to be able to do in the different areas of your life. For each one of them, what is the motivation or reason for you to include it in your list?

2. Arrange them in order of importance.
What impact would it make to your life if you achieve each one of them? What are the payoffs for you to put time and effort into realising them?

3. Testing your determination.
Now, you are going on a trip in a hot air balloon. Each one of your priorities is going to be stored in a box. Each box is of equal weight and size. As the hot air balloon rises, you can see, what it would be like if you were able to achieve your priorities. What images, feelings come to your mind? What would it sound like if you were going to sing about it?

You are now as high as the clouds and suddenly the winds become stronger. The burner flame weakens and the hot air balloon starts to descend dangerously. For you to survive, you would need to decrease the weight of the wicker basket. This is a life and death situation. It is either you or the boxes.

What would you take out first? Remember each priority box is of the same weight. You are told that you are able to keep only one, maybe two. As you let go of each box, what happens? What makes it difficult or easy to let go?

4. Reassess your priorities list
Are they still the same? If yes, then your perspective of life is congruent with your lifestyle. If not, there is always time to re arrange your priorities and to make the desired changes. What have stopped you from doing them? What steps can you take right now to start the changes?

5. Review your lifestyle according to your final list of priorities.
If you have chosen “being healthy” as your no 1 priority, do you spend time looking after yourself? What would it mean to be healthy? Are you actually doing them?

The hot air balloon exercise can be used to test how strong your values are, what are the main priorities in your job search or career choice. The outcome of the exercise changes over time and it is recommended to do this exercise occasionally.

How to Manage a Retail Property or Shopping Centre

The management of retail property is generally more difficult and complex than the same process associated with office and industrial property. This is because the retail property is more active and vibrant in its daily activities. You need better people to manage retail property.

The management of a retail property takes more time, costs more to implement, and on that basis demands more fees for the process. Specialist property managers should adjust fees based on time and effort for this complex property type. Landlords looking for low fees and shortcuts should be avoided.

Each and every day you have people going to the Shopping Centre with a variety of interests, priorities, and needs. These people can be categorized as follows:

  1. Tenants as part of the tenant mix occupying the property in long term leases and also those areas of casual lease
  2. Customers coming to the property during the week (this will vary by type on different days and at different times)
  3. Contractors working within the property to maintain property performance and functionality
  4. Property management and marketing staff controlling the day’s events and helping the tenant mix and property operate with efficiency.
  5. Landlords often visit their property or may even be located in the premises
  6. Professionals associated with the property and the landlord (such as solicitors, accountants, and lenders involved in the performance of the property)
  7. Tourists, or workers and other transients passing through the area

So, all of these people have interests and priorities in the function of the property. This is where the factors of control come in that impact the property management process.

Just how can you control the needs of all of these people? Here are some ideas to develop and help you understand why retail property management is so special:

  • Good customer access and information on site is a number one priority – This will include car parks, signage, common areas, and facilities. Customers to the property should feel comfortable with the experience so they keep coming back.
  • Tenant mix management – Not all tenants are suitable for the location in which they are placed, or with the other tenants near them. This is where tenant mix optimisation is part of the retail management and leasing process.
  • Maintenance management – A retail property has higher levels of daily maintenance and on that basis has to be controlled. The factors of cleaning and wear and tear are higher in retail property.
  • Income and expenditure controls are very important to the function of the property. Any pending or existing vacancies should be dealt with quickly because a long term vacancy in a property influences nearby tenants and customer sentiment.
  • A retail property has to be marketed to the community and the shoppers that frequent the property. This is quite a specific task, and any errors made in marketing can have impact on the trade for the property.

From these points it is easy to see that a retail property manager is a special person that brings high levels of skill to the property and the landlord. Landlords should choose their property manager with care and seek evidence of relevant successful experience in other properties.

The 9 Biggest Challenges to Scheduling Your Machine Shop and Why Most Schedules Are Dead on Arrival!

I recently surveyed 1,500 NTMA (National Tooling and Machining Association) machine shop owners about the biggest challenges they face when trying to schedule their shop. And then I spent countless hours going through the data.

I learned a lot and I really felt your pain. But by sharing my findings with you, my hope, is that you will learn a lot as well and maybe we can ease some of that pain.

The 9 Biggest Challenges …

Based on my survey (and from many of my clients and those I meet while Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt’s Global Marketing Director) I can say this… you are not alone. With all the responses I received, I could categorize ALL of them into 9 challenges. So let’s go through each category …

1. Clients change their mind

Customers often want to make changes after they have placed their order. They want to change their quantity, change the scope, change the design, cancel, or ask you to give priority to another one of the jobs.

In addition, customers often have emergency needs. And big or important customers always seem to pick the time when you’re booked solid for 3 weeks to call and request that you slip their job in this week so that they can meet a commitment to their customer.

So, we break a setup, we jump through hoops and do what we need to do to keep the customer happy. But we are now late on another customer’s job. And now the schedule is out of date.

And sometimes, they don’t want to make a change, but they want to check in with you to make sure your going to finish their job on-time.

And, we hate answering the phone.

2. Vendors are not always reliable

Raw material suppliers, particularly for less common materials, can extend or vary their lead-times and then still don’t always deliver when promised.

In addition, outside process vendors like platers, heat-treaters, welders, and the like also have a hard time meeting their original commitment. And the amount of time they end up taking varies based on the load on their facility so you can’t even begin to predict.

So as soon as one of our vendors misses their commitment, our schedule is out of date, and we now may be late. And when it finally shows up, we find ourselves breaking a setup and expediting because THAT customer just called.

And, these guys seem to schedule based on who’s screaming the loudest, so we need to call and scream on a regular basis for any important jobs. This isn’t very productive work, but it’s necessary.

3. Our mix can vary wildly and so our constraint moves

It seems that the nature of a machine shop is that your mix is going to change, and due to that your constraint (your Herbie) is going to move. And, it’s hard to improve a moving target and improving everywhere is just plain unaffordable.

Machine shops can range in the amount of repeat work they do. And the more custom work they do, the more the mix can change day-to-day or week-to-week. And sometimes “the mix gods” are good to us, but sometimes they’re not and we don’t ship on-time.

But shops that do a large amount of repeat or make to stock work don’t have it any easier — they are trying to balance against an unknown and ever changing forecast. And when the forecast is wrong, we need to break setups and expedite.

4. My employees do not always have the right skill and their discipline is lacking

Machine shops universally seem to lack skills amongst their employees. Certain people have to run certain jobs. Not everyone can do a setup, or not everyone can do certain setups. I’ve heard some owners refer to their less skilled labor as button pushers or part changers.

This means that the skilled people always have a backlog of work while we chase around and find something the button pushers can’t screw up. And finding the time to cross train is difficult.

And in addition to these skill issues, people don’t always show up on time or at all. Or they show up, but you wish their attitude would have stayed home…getting buy-in is difficult at best.

5. My processes are not reliable

Even jobs that repeat can have large differences in set up and run times depending on who is running it or what machine it runs on. But even if we can get the same guy and the same machine each time, stuff happens — tools break, fixtures don’t work, machines or tools aren’t calibrated, etc.

And then we win a new job, one we have not run before. And, of course, it doesn’t run anything like what we planned or based our pricing on. Stuff happens.

Our front office or pre-manufacturing processes are not much better. This means that some of the time we don’t always have what we need to run the job — the raw material, the design, the order into the system, the programming done, etc.

And when stuff happens (or more correctly when variability happens) we are in jeopardy of delivering late, which causes us to expedite, which means our schedule is out of date.

6. Machines break down

Of course, on occasion, machines break down. It’s difficult to schedule maintenance when you’re always behind schedule. And it seems to happen when we’re slammed. And then our schedule is out of date, we are in jeopardy of delivering later, and so we again expedite. (We’re getting pretty good at this fire fighting and expediting.)

7. Quality is not near perfect

Quality isn’t always perfect. Sometimes we struggle to make it right the first time or don’t catch a mistake until further processing has been done. Regardless of whether we spend time doing rework due to an unpredictable downstream activity or an unsuccessful tool tryout the result is we are in jeopardy of missing our due date, which causes us to expedite, and now the schedule is out of date.

8. Our data is not readily available nor accurate nor communicated

It is difficult to predict the load on our facility relative to our capacity — our reports and existing software don’t help or they are more trouble than they are worth. Our estimates for set-up and job run times are not accurate. This combined with all the items above make it difficult to provide due dates that we can hit 99+% of the time.

And because so many things can go wrong at any time, and we don’t have good feedback data or communication within the shop — we can’t predict. We can’t predict when we are going to complete a job, if we’re going to be late, so we end up breaking set-ups and expediting when we really need to.

And if we try to improve our due-date performance (DDP) by extending lead-times, we start to lose work to the competition. And if we miss too many due-dates or by too much, we are in danger of losing the client anyway.

So we do what we can. We use the reports we have which are based on less than perfect data. We create a detailed shop schedule, and then we update it, and update it, and update it …

9. Communication between silos is difficult

When something goes wrong within our company or with one of our vendors we don’t always know right way. Real-time feedback is non-existent. And customers don’t always get back to us in a timely fashion.

We don’t always communicate with our sales people and they don’t always communicate with operations/scheduling. There is usually just a lot of finger pointing back and forth. And a number of people want the ability to change shop priorities.

It’s not that we don’t want to communicate, it’s just that everyone is so busy dealing with all of the stuff above, there’s no time to do yet one more thing. And, who needs the conflict that is likely to occur?

We don’t have a quick snapshot of what we should be focusing on at any particular time. We don’t know what’s in jeopardy of being late, and it’s tough to get a sense of how we’re doing.

The Schedule is DOA …

So now we know why our schedule is Dead On Arrival. Actually when you list out all these challenges it’s really amazing that we do as well as we do.

So it’s no wonder it’s so hard for you to maximize your productivity, achieve 99+% on-time performance and reduce lead-times. But nevertheless, we do try to improve. The problem is that we focus on improving one or a couple of the above challenges and we diminish them some — but we don’t have any substantial impact on our on-time delivery performance or reducing our lead-times.

What if we had a Paradise Plant?

If we have correctly identified all the major causes for the difficulty in managing production, then it means that if we could address each one that the shop would be relatively easy to manage. The schedule would not change, we would not need to expedite, and we could be on-time, all the time.

Do you agree that, if:

1. clients never change their mind, 2. and vendors always supply whatever we ask for, on time, 3. and our mix stayed constant and our constraint did not move, 4. and people are excellently trained and disciplined, 5. and all processes are reliable, 6. and machines never break down, 7. and quality is superb, 8. and data is readily available, accurate, and communicated, 9. and communication is good,

Then:

ยท Managing production would be a piece of cake?

This seems logical. So I tried it. Now, I could not find a real Paradise Plant, but I did find a simulated one. And I gave the simulator to some very good schedulers. The simulator didn’t think for them, it didn’t make any decisions, it only executed the decisions they made.

The simulator presents a relatively simple operation — considerably fewer resources and products than what you have to manage in your real operation. And there is NO variability or skill issues. All of the challenges listed above are gone.

We went over how the simulator works – how to order material, how to set up a machine, what the orders are, the exact routing’s for each product, exactly how long each process is, etc.

The simulator could be frozen and the participants had as much time as they wanted to carefully plan and execute. They also did a short trial to make sure that they weren’t hindered by the software. This should be a piece of cake right?

What Happened in Paradise?

We asked each participate how they did and what their results were. NONE of the participants shipped all their orders — meaning they were NOT 100% on-time. And it wasn’t because of lack of capacity.

In addition, they reported that their well planned, detailed schedule was only good for about the first 2 days. After that they were running by the seat of their pants making a lot of course corrections.

How can it be that when all the challenges are removed, we are still left with the same 3 undesirable effects /problems?

1. Not all customers’ orders are shipped on time.

2. Original plans have a very limited life or are dead on arrival.

3. There are a lot of course corrections and expediting

This means that the list of challenges we collected are not THE major cause of the above three items because they occurred even after we removed these challenges. So it must be that we have not yet identified the true cause for these negative effects.

SUMMARY

So a better ERP, customers who don’t change their mind, higher skilled labor, a constant constraint, a constant mix, and so on wouldn’t completely solve the 3 problems.

But working on one or a few of these challenges is typically what we do. We hire a Lean consultant to help reduce our set-ups or to better organize our work space — and we do reduce our set-up time and we are better organized, but did we substantially improve our DDP, reduce the number of times we need to break setups or reduce our lead-times? The answer is typically no, not substantially.