This isn’t what I intended to post today. My scanner finally came so I was going to use that to put together a post but it’s nearly three and the scanner is still in the box. Then I got sidetracked with Bill Waddell who is back to blogging at Evolving Excellence. You think I’m bad, I’d never have the nerve to write like he does. Today he said something that gave me an idea:
I always ask top management to list the most significant innovations they have made, or are working towards. They [want] engineers to dream up a product technology that, in one fell swoop, reinvents the product, redefines the market, propels them years ahead of the competition. And they are looking for their lean initiative to instantly make their workers into production machines that are defect free, laboring at half the price, and never wasting a cent of support costs. In short, their view of innovation is for the value creating end of the business to perform miracles.
I say much the same in my book ad nauseum but here from pg.202:
Production costs vary depending on the production schedule so larger chunk expenditures deserve more attention and investment… This is the reason why the biggest reason for cost over runs is over focusing on the final phase of production which is where they have the least amount of control.
Everyone focuses on reducing costs of things for which we write the biggest checks, but what if we focused on the smallest costs first? What would happen then? I realize it seems counter intuitive to worry about tiny amounts with looming overhead but think about it. I tried to think of one such example I’d done and two things struck me,
- The small cost items saved me a lot more money than I ever imagined.
- The reason I made those changes wasn’t money, it was annoyance.
Then I realized that the most cost effective changes I make are based on reducing my annoyance, not expenses. This applies to patterns, sewing, everything. As a rational person, it makes more sense to focus on larger costs because dollar-wise, you can’t justify wasting energy on something low cost -or is that really rational? I say it’s time to use annoyance as a productivity and cost cutting tool.
I used to trot down to the post office every afternoon after 5 PM (ours closes at 6) and wait in line to process the packages for mailing. I didn’t mind it because it was the only time I saw people during the work day so you visit a little and look at people and all that. But one clerk (Julio, now retired) could only move one body part at a time so if his lips were moving -that’s technically two body parts- it taxed his physiology to the extent he was unable to move his hands. Worse, he fancied himself Mr Popularity and if he saw a child, that put the brakes on everything. He’d stop working, lean halfway over the counter and call the child over (which usually took time because the kid didn’t realize the weird man wanted him to come), give it a piece of candy and visit with the mom. It got to be so bad I took to timing him and gave him a status report when he was done in terms of how many minutes per package. His average was over two minutes per package. If you’re mailing ten items as I usually was, that’s over 20 minutes at the window to say nothing of how long it took to get there.
One day I’d had it, I asked him as a favor to do it (relatively) quickly. I was tired, it was the end of the day, I had to go home and cook dinner and be in a rotten mood for my family. I’d looked into internet mailing software but it seemed too costly when my time was free (admit it, we all do that) and I’d have to learn something new and what if I didn’t like it or it was a hassle? I ended up getting Endicia and it has saved me so much money, time and my prime motivator -annoyance. I pay $15 a month and the cost of larger labels ($20 for 200). It saves me money because I send everything delivery confirmation and you pay slightly lower rates on some things (5%). With Endicia, I get delivery confirmation half price or less which amounts to saving over $60 a month even after paying the monthly subscription. Best of all, I don’t have to wait in line. If your packages are ready to go, you can go right up to the counter and drop them off. The only downside is the ugly looks you get from other customers when you go to the front of the line. In the end, solving this low cost problem dramatically improved my productivity and reduced my frustration. There were other costs I eliminated that I hadn’t factored in. Such as the time it took to fill out the delivery confirmation slips and entering those into the computer.
So that’s my challenge for you. Instead of figuring out ways to cut costs on big ticket expenditures, find the lowest cost annoyance you have and fix it. That it annoys you is the big tip off; make a list of those. And do it over and over even if it’s something silly like moving a box you have to walk around all the time like I do. The results may surprise you. Some of you are a lot smarter than me and may have already figured this out. What sort of changes have you made?
PS. If you sign up for Endicia and reference my account number (607054), I get a free month of service. You get a free month even if you don’t.