Empower Your Employees to Improve Efficiencies

The complexity of running a petroleum distribution company can be mind-boggling. Adding to the huge number of pieces, parts, activities, departments, and software of this huge machine is the fact that most jobbers are legacy companies that have been in business 50+ years. Many systems and processes have been around long enough to create inefficiencies that bog down the company and are hurting more than helping.

It’s not unusual to find diligent employees doing their job, trying to stay up with the time sensitive requirements of getting those loads of fuel purchased, managed and out on a truck for delivery as quickly as possible. Efficiencies frequently fall into second place over just getting the job done.

Starting with focusing on the all-important customer-related issues, here are five steps for getting to the root problem of inefficiencies and helping departments work together, instead of operating in their own silos:

  1. Measure Current Results What gets measured gets Task your billing, customer service and credit department employees to actually measure why customers are calling the office. How many invoices have to be resent? How many credit and rebills are piling up on a daily basis? How many new accounts are not being set up correctly? What else is causing employees to stop what they are doing to fix an issue that might have originated in another department?
  2. Schedule Half-day Evaluation Session(s) – Dedicate a significant chunk of time to getting these departments in the same room, talking together about the results of the measurements and what can be done to solve issues rather than continually interrupting other employees who then have to put out the fires one at a time. This is a critical, and underutilized, group activity that creates a communication that can’t be achieved with flurries of emails going back and forth between departments, or even one manager talking to another manager. It literally takes the employees doing the work, face to face.
  3. Groups Identify System Bottlenecks/Inefficiencies Using whiteboards or large sticky pads, map out the step-by-step processes involved in customer set up, billing and other basic tasks from order to pay. Small sticky notes work great for this process flowcharting, and once mapped out, next step is to let each department identify problem areas by marking the problematic step. What issues are uncovered that one department doesn’t even realize is impacting another department? Group discussions and critical problem solving are then centered around these specific targeted areas.
  4. Assess Continuing Training Needs – An important side effect of identifying issues is discovering when problems are a result of employees using outdated or undertrained systems and processes, including use of software that should be helping workflow vs. creating more work on the back end.
  5. Commit to Quarterly Follow Up Again, what gets measured gets Schedule regular benchmark measurement on the key points identified in the original departmental discussions, with follow up problem solving as needed.

As companies grow and evolve with new tools, challenges and hiring, this teamwork process is extremely effective in creating a synergy between critically connected departments, resulting in greatly improved business excellence.

Ann Pitts