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MNC Consulting Group Newsletter
December 2012
The Efficient Organization


Defects The Hidden Cost of Rework


One of the biggest problems in business processes is rework. Anything that has to be re-done, re-built, re-packaged, re-anything is a waste. If the service or product is not done right the first time, the individual (and the organization) experiences rework, resulting in more time, materials, and cost to the final service or product. If you work by the hour, reworking your deliverable may look like you're getting paid a lot to produce very little. And you'd be correct.  


The importance of producing quality products or services the first time is important not only to the organization, but to the employee as well. Think about the last time you had to rework something. How did you feel? Chances are that you felt (and were) distracted and frustrated that you had to stop work on one task to handle something that you thought you completed.


The simple act of stopping one task to do rework another one takes not only the actual stop and start time, but distractions themselves create time loss greater than the rework itself. In fact, it is estimated that 40 percent of the time, those that stop a task to do something else (like rework), do not return to the original task. 


Let's face it. We're not perfect. At some point, we all reworked something. This is normal. However, if you spend more than 15 percent of your time on rework, either the way you work or the overall process itself is in need of repair. Some examples that contribute to rework include lack of clarity about the work, lack of process controls, poor quality of incoming materials, poor work instructions, inadequate training, projects that do not include true business outcomes, or other causes.


While in the majority of cases rework decreases the value of the process, there are instances where a type of rework is desirable. For example, revisiting and reviewing previous completed work is both desirable and necessary for inspiration and creativity. What worked well in previous projects? What could have been improved? If you don't review previous work, it is hard to answer those questions and prevent the same mistakes. One might argue that reviewing completed work is not rework at all since it adds value to new work.


Here are five ways to decrease the amount of time you spend on rework: 


  1. Maintain an effective records and information management system. One of the biggest problems in offices is that they can't find what they're looking for or they're basing decisions on non-current information. If your information resources aren't current, there is a high probability that your decisions will need rework.
  2. Consolidate your paper and electronic records. Don't duplicate the same information across multiple media. This creates confusion about what copy is the official version and can be a source of rework.
  3. Ensure that work procedures are current. Relying on procedures written five years ago is not good business. Procedures manuals are dynamic documents and need to be reviewed at least annually to ensure that they are accurate and as efficient as possible.
  4. Involve those that do the work when writing procedures. They will provide you with the best insight and expertise about how the work can be done accurately and efficiently.
  5. Use the latest technology where it makes sense to do so. If you expect efficiency and productivity from your employees, give them the tools to help them zip through their tasks. Buying the latest technology for them will improve their productivity. But don't buy high-priced tech gadgets if all they need to do is check their email. Less costly solutions may be better suited in these instances.


Pay attention to how much time your organization is spending on rework. Reducing rework will enable work to get done faster at a reduced cost. In effect, you will experience a triple benefit - reduced rework, reduced duration, and a reduced cost. Astute organizations would welcome these types of reductions.


Pursuit of Profit
Human error      
Workplace Faults


Between 70 and 90 percent of workplace errors are attributed to "human error" (also known as "operator error"). On the surface, one would presume that this means that the person doing the work makes a mistake on their own, without the influence of other factors. However, we know this is not entirely true. Human error can occur due to a person's inability to perform a required operation, but it can also occur when procedures or visual cues are incorrect.


 When an organization experiences high incidences of product or service defects, equipment malfunctions, environmental hazards, and other similar defects, the most likely source of the defect is in the standards, procedures, instructions, workplace layout, workplace culture, staff morale, or other broader contributors. It is rarely the sole result of the individual's performance. But when it is the result of the individual's performance, other factors may also play a crucial role.


If your organization experiences a large rate of defects that may be from human error, consider the following. 


  • Match the person to the task. Not all people are created equal and not all people can do the same tasks. Each  of us is very capable of doing at least one task very well. Find the innate ability in your staff and watch them and your organization glow.
  • The more difficult, dangerous, unpleasant or repetitive a task, the more likely human error will occur. For these types of tasks, consider assigning more than one person. This way, more breaks can be taken so that the individual is able to provide full focus to the task with less chance of errors.
  • Ensure that procedures are current and that staff is trained. If not, staff will make best guesses about how to complete tasks and this increases errors.
  • Fatigue can increase human error. One needs to be at their best (i.e., sleep is a major contributor to a person's wellbeing) to perform their best. If staff is being pushed to work long hours to meet deadlines, the quality of work may suffer due to human error.
  • Illness, injury, stress, and other personal factors may contribute to human error. In addition to ensuring one is well rested, staff the are experiencing illness, injury or stress need to take responsibility for their wellbeing so that they can be high functioning in all aspects of their life. Human error abounds when one is not at their best.


At the end of the day, it is human nature to want to blame a person for a failure. It is somehow easier rather than for the organization to admit deficiencies in its procedures, products, services, processes, or systems. And in some instances, it may even seem less costly to outright fire a worker for his/her errors than look at the bigger issues. But a study by Shanders and Shaw (1988) revealed that in no case is human error the only factor.


To reduce human error and improve your organization's quality of work, consider implementing a Lean Six Sigma approach. By doing so, you will experience better speed, better flow of work, reduced defects, and reduced process variation. This means better quality faster with a reduction in cost and complexity of products and services.



In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)


Give a person a gadget with instructions and there's a good chance they'll ignore the instructions and experiment with the gadget first. If it's a toy, no problem, but if it's work, it could be a serious problem. Consider airplanes. The airline industry and military have done a great deal of studies on human factors in aircraft accidents and near misses and have carefully manipulated aircraft operation to ensure our safety. With today's technology, an airplane is capable of taking off, flying across a continent, and landing without any input from pilots. But the airplane still needs pilots. If you're someone who likes to experiment with work processes and systems before reading instructions, I bet you wouldn't want your aircraft's pilot doing the same thing with the aircraft while you're a passenger. Work instructions exist for good reason. IMHO.


"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

Napoleon Bonaparte

About MNC Consulting Group
Our goal is to help you to dramatically increase efficiencies that immediately boost your profit margins.


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Extreme Profits is a monthly electronic newsletter discussing how leaders can be more efficient and areas where organizations can save more money. 


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In This Issue
The Hidden Cost of Rework
Workplace Faults
In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)

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