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How to Improve Operational Efficiency by Finding Your Blind Spots

May 28, 2020

Looking to improve your operational efficiency? Start by bringing more visibility to your blind spots. Here’s how.

Finding and addressing blind spots can be one of the biggest challenges operations managers face, and they can exist in several areas across the supply chain. For instance, sometimes workers can’t get the information they need quickly enough. Other times, there’s just not enough time to investigate how specific departments handle their operations, or data is siloed due to a lack of interoperability between systems.

Whatever the case, blind spots usually come from three common sources. Here’s a breakdown of those sources and their potential impact on operations:

  • People: Blind spots can occur in any area of a company where workers rely on one person too heavily for information. For example, this person may make all the decisions, do all the work in a specific area, or have the most information about the department. If that person becomes suddenly unavailable, a blind spot will arise when no one knows where to go for decisions, information, or processes related to specific tasks.
  • Data: Data problems can create blind spots when workers don’t have the information they need to make the right decisions. There may be areas in a company in which data is not available at all, or it’s siloed and only certain people can access it. Alternatively, the data may not be recent enough — for instance, if it’s only made available the next day or week after it’s collected.
  • Process: If workflows and processes aren’t readily available or easily understood, blind spots can arise around specific vendor, customer, or department processes. It often takes a product failure or emergency of some sort for a company to realize it is unaware of how that part of the business operates.

These blind spots interfere with operational efficiency because they create vulnerabilities, such as bottlenecks, dependencies, or downtime. These are important for operations managers to consider because when something goes wrong, the operations manager is held accountable. If workers miss an important deadline, for example, it’s on the manager to identify the source of the problem and prevent it in the future. When blind spots emerge, a standard assumption is that the manager lacks awareness and control over the situation or team.

Business leader with a blindfold on

If, however, an operations manager has all the information about different departments, tasks, processes, and data organized in one place, he or she can eliminate blind spots and see the full common operating picture. Without this level of operational visibility, operations managers don’t have the context they need to make decisions or address problems quickly and effectively.

4 Ways to Remove or Reduce Blind Spots and Improve Operational Efficiency

1. Enable true collaboration with the right technology.

Communication tools like Zoom and Slack are helpful for connecting people, but in order to reduce blind spots and improve operational efficiency, companies should look for tools that take it a step further by enabling true collaboration.

Zoom and Slack stand alone as ungoverned spaces that typically fill up with chatter. They’re not integrated into existing systems and processes, so their impact on employee collaboration and connection to the workflow is limited. The platforms are built for chatting and meeting, not for uniting employees through task-oriented collaboration.

Coolfire’s software, however, aims to remove unnecessary chatter and instead replace it with collaboration focused specifically on tasks at hand. When messaging is combined with workflows, such as task assignments and notifications, employees engage in task-oriented collaboration, rather than unfocused conversation. The software also gives operations managers a full view of which tasks have been completed and when, so they never need to worry about blind spots when it comes to task completion or missed deadlines.

 

2. Look for a tool that can also provide real-time visibility.

Operational visibility has been reactive for some time; operations managers are accustomed to waiting until freight reaches a certain point to get caught up on where it’s been and where it’s headed next, for instance. This visibility latency has emerged as a pressing issue for operations because data can often lag hours or days behind the reality of a situation, creating blind spots for everyone along the supply chain.

Carriers and third-party logistics companies are increasingly recognizing the opportunity real-time data can give them, however. With a fuller, more timely common operating picture, they can develop a more thorough understanding of their operations, prevent bottlenecks, make more strategic in-transit decisions, and capitalize on countless other opportunities for improving operational efficiency.

Coolfire’s workflow collaboration solution provides a common operating picture that gathers dispersed and siloed data sources and condenses them into a single source of truth, provides context, and generates truly actionable information in real time. With this tool, operations managers can translate unprocessed data — fleet locations, shipment statuses, cargo conditions, and more — into precise and actionable information to be directed toward the right team member at the right time.

 

3. Search your operational history for clues.

Another strategy for identifying and remedying blind spots lies in referring back to your company’s operational history for clues or indicators of what went wrong, as well as wherewhen, and why things went wrong.

If you can pinpoint recurring patterns in these mistakes, there’s a high likelihood that you can trace the issues back to some sort of blind spot. For example, if you notice that you consistently fail to make deliveries on time to a particular destination due to misaligned instructions between the recipient and your drivers, it may be the result of a data silo that impedes shared operational visibility.

 

4. Ask your employees for feedback.

As the boots-on-the-ground executors of your operation, your employees have the most immediate and intimate knowledge of its complex inner workings. By implementing regular company evaluations with digital tools to solicit structured feedback from your most experienced employees, you’re able to source information about blind spots from the individuals who experience them on a day-to-day basis.

Blind spots are difficult to identify and mitigate by nature, but they present huge inefficiencies for many operations managers. With the right collaborative technology tool combined with a thorough review of operational history and experienced employee feedback, however, managers can reach the level of operational visibility necessary for companies to run smoothly and efficiently.