Using time and attendance data to improve productivity

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by Stephen Hawley Martin

An automated time and attendance system can roll up information in practically any way management may find helpful or revealing. An important question that usually can be answered is how much time was actually spent working on jobs, adding value. How much was billable?

Comparing actual value-added time spent by workers who do the same jobs can cause employers to completely rethink how they do business. A study conducted by the National Center for Manufacturing Science (NCMS), for example, determined that Toyota’s product development engineers were, on average, four times more productive than their American and European counterparts. Western engineers spend about 20 percent of their time actually creating something of value for consumers. Toyota’s spend 80 percent.

Michael N. Kennedy, who wrote a book about the Toyota development system, Product Development for the Lean Enterprise, adds insight to the difference. Kennedy argues that western systems follow a somewhat bureaucratic, linear approach that focuses engineers on individual tasks and due dates for each new model under development.

On the other hand, Toyota does not focus its efforts on the development of specific vehicles or on completing deadline-oriented tasks such as detailed drawings or schematics. Rather, Toyota’s engineers focus on the development of the many subsystems that come together to form automobiles and trucks.

The result is Toyota engineers are less concerned with non value-added minutia. They concentrate instead on developing auto and truck components in the belief the superior subsystems that result can be mixed and matched to create a whole host of new product possibilities. Because of Toyota’s success in this regard, many western companies that depend on new products to keep them competitive are now striving to emulate the Toyota product development system.

If there are internal sources of excellence that need to be emulated within the organization, roll-ups and comparisons may spotlight these performers. With data that can be parsed in any segment and timeframe, the proliferation of this excellence doesn’t have to wait until the annual report.

Stephen Hawley Martin is a former principal of The Martin Agency in Richmond and author of more than a half dozen books including his newest, Lead Enterprise Leader: How to Get Things Done Without Doing It All Yourself.

He is editor and publisher of The Oaklea Press, a book publishing business dedicated primarily to helping business executives increase productivity. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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