Study of methods, standardization and normalization of time

Practical view about establishment of metrics and statistical information from operational departments and professional services areas on Telecommunications Industry.

This work is based on two thematic ideas, each of them will have conclusions and practical points of view for the reader. The first one will be based on the recognition of the available information following the methods and procedures on the actual operation. The second one will be about activities standardization, time normalization and finally the establishment of performance indicators for the operations department.

Not a single doubt, nowadays, there is no organization in the Telecommunications Industry or any other kind that does not have information about what, how and when they make their “Product”.
This work will focus on the product from the perspective of Telecommunications and Systems Industry.

The available information recognition is specifically about understanding the making   of the product through the process, from the beginning until its final delivery.
In order to understand this process a study of methods is required. Following these general steps:

  • Reading and understanding of current theoretical process using diagrams to comprehend how information flows and whether there are obvious points of control.
  • Historical data analysis and measurements in order to contrast later on.
  • Revision of the real process with the people who use it on a daily basis.

The study of methods is meant to understand which information is really useful and which is not, at least without being combined correctly. You are probably wondering, How can i distinguish useful information from the rest? , Is all information useful if it is combined correctly?. In order to answer those and other possible questions here are some simple rules which could be applied on telecommunications operational areas or other kind of industries, even the manufacturing industry.

How can i distinguish useful information from the rest?

If the information or data (as an adimentional number graphic or function) which I am analizing follows one of the following assumptions:

  • Shows only known tendencies without considerable changes in time line.
  • In order to understand the information shown, the person who sees it must have additional or complementary information or just be an expert in the topic.
  • It is not clear if it is relative or absolute information.

The information that follows the previous premises is not useful in practice, it only adds confusion to the process and thus removing value. Take it aside for now!

Is all information useful if it is combined correctly?

In fact it is!. All information taken aside in the previous steps in combination with the right one could result in new information that really adds value to the process and its understanding.
In this part of the study you must gather all the information that adds value to the process and makes it lean.

At this point, you have a whole universe of available information, and even more…you know which information can provide unknown information that lead us to further decisions.

Standardizing tasks or processes

Organizations standardize processes in order to reduce variability and essentially to predict and control them. The strongest one is the technical system regulation, the more formalized is the operative work, the more bureaucratic is the operative core structure.
While the technical system becomes more regulating, I mean, divided into specialized and simple standard pieces, the operative work becomes more rutinary and predictable. Consequently, this kind of work can be formalized, standardized and later on measured and normalized.
You need to make partitions of the information universe in this stage, to perform a quantitative analysis, for that reason you need to find unique patterns and make them to converge.

Obviously, this requires a fine job of selection and classifying information, and above all a study of methods and procedures to gather several patterns with common things into one, again you have to make them converge. All this, in order to make them standardized processes. (See Figure 1)


Figure 1

However, one of the most complex tasks when you are standardizing processes is to delimitate all the parts that make a standard procedure, always keeping high standards of quality and safety.
Typically, a standard procedure has known limits of all the activities that compose it, and above all, the activities are in ordered sequence of execution. By doing this you can avoid one procedure from being executed by more than one different sequence of activities. (See Figure 2)


Figure 2

Surely, it will be part of the job of the person performing the study to understand with the people involved, the optimum sequence to perform the procedures so as to be able to document, train and inform the entire staff of a new standard. Then it will be monitored carefully so that it always runs in the same way.
When you use standardized tasks you have to respect sequence, in order to measure time.
This is definitely not something minor, because this will be the base line to estimates (Costs / Effort / Number of staff required / schedules, etc.), and a steady improvement process. Obviously standardize a process or task can substantially change the number of tasks or processes involved in it and the order. (See Figure 3)


Figure 3

Normalizing tasks and processes time

Now that each of the processes or tasks is always performed equally, you will be interested in setting indicators and targets, but first you must normalize the time of each task.

 

In this stage you must be explicit about all boundary conditions and assumptions you have been taken at the time of setting normal time to a task or process. This will be of great interest when you analize those times and new ones, some of them would be:

Boundary conditions and assumptions for the tasks

  • Level of knowledge of staff
  • Prior knowledge required
  • Number of personnel involved
  • Percentage of dedication required

Even taking into account the above conditions always take a random sampling. The important thing is to be aware that they are necessary and important to consider. Then look for a balance among them. For example, it is not recommended to take measurements of expert personnel only, since surely the time will tend to be ideal. It is very likely that the deviation in this case will be very large.

Likewise, it is not recommendable to take measurements under ideal conditions (all boundary conditions satisfied). Instead, you can take samples under real conditions (boundary conditions unsatisfied wholly or partially). (See Figure 4)


Figure 4

With these measurements taken on several iterations of the same process or task, you can perform an average, which will be used as an upper limit (considering or not a percentage of slack), that will depend on the interaction with other planning areas.

The iteration of these actions on different processes or tasks, will result on an array of normal times, which will be largely used as the basis of future indicators and targets. (See Figure 5)


Figure 5

Proposed indicators and objectives

In any field, the main purpose of the indicators is to give quick and easy information about the situation (past / present / future) of a particular area or sector, or even the general state of the company. Obviously the detail of each indicator and its calculation basis is substantially different ,and also the analysis of the information. These are usually called Lagging and Leading indicators. Likewise, both -indicators and objectives-, go hand in hand in most cases because it is even simpler to understand them at a glance if they are expressed relative to the target.

In most of the cases, the more commonly used indicators in operational areas of different types of Industries are the ones specified in Formulas 5.6 and 7 which indicate the efficiency, productivity and individual or group capacity.

  1. Ideal production=Productivity Objective*Accumulated productive resources
  2. Real production=Average productivity*Accumulated productive resources
  3. Ideal efficiency=(Ideal production)/(Ideal time capacity)
  4. Ideal capacity=Available time*Accumulated productive resources
  5. Real efficiency (%)=(Real production)/(Used time)* 100/(Ideal efficiency)
  6. Real productivity (%)=(Real production)/(Ideal production)*100
  7. Real capacity (%)=( Used time)/(Ideal capacity)*100

 

Note that in all formulas (5,6 and 7) it can be observed data related to ideal target for both, -production and capacity. The recommendation here is that all objectives must be based on a previous study of standardized times. For productivity objectives is the same thing, objectives must be based on a previous study of methods and standardized tasks. If none of these follow this premises, objectives could be unreachable or in the other hand, they could be quite easy to achieve.

In addition, having clear indicators -relative or absolute- may help you make comparisons to previous periods. With this comparisons you can set targets for improvement on each new period and compare the result achieved. This is very important, measure, compare, set realistic targets, analize results and start all over again.

Here is a typical control board for an area of operations. (See Figure 6)


Figure 6

Note. Data in Figure 6 is just exemplary.

The calculations used may vary according to the portion of time considered. Depending on who will be the user of the dashboard, the time unit considered will substantially change. The point here is that this kind of tools must be useful for any level in the organization, even the operative level in which every one would know whether your day has been productive or not.
In addition, indicators and objectives will be directly related to the industry where you apply them. For example, one widely used that has not been contemplated before is called “rework” or “effectiveness”, which can measure directly the quality of work performed.

Communicate and explain to the team

Personally I think this is one of the most difficult points of dealing successfully in any organization, whatever its structure. Generally, most of the problems in medium and large companies is, undoubtedly, communication, given the complexity of its growth exponentially with the number of staff who interact within the organization, even today with so much technology the hand is still a highly complex challenge in many cases. In this case It is worth clarifying that technology as such does not solve the problems of communication, integration and growth of companies but is often a very useful tool if used correctly and rationally.
So, what is the key when communicating changes or improvements to the group?. The answer to this question is quite wide!, and will depend on several border conditions that for sure will be different on each company and Industry.

Allow me to give some advice that work quite well for me at Intraway, particularly on an operative structure quite changing and dynamic:

  • Explain the current situation, and what triggers the need to change it. Always describe at first place all the things that are correct and your group must keep doing. Later on, and in my opinion the most important, describe all the things the group must stop doing. Create a “Stop-doing-list”. Sometimes it is better to deal with a problem through its complement part.
  • Use multimedia support materials, and have a test presentation with peers and trusted advisors to have some advice or just receive oppinions and possible corrections.
  • Set clear goals and objectives and fix dates in order to control the effectiveness of the plan.
  • Always give the team the possibility to have a future review of the plan so they can contribute with their vision to improve.
  • Prepare a formal memo, usually an email, and send it to all the team after you give the presentation.
  • Make a little survey with just a few questions to sense the general perception of the environment inside the area.

 

I strongly believe that if you follow this simple steps you will get excellent results. People will feel involved and part of the team. In other words, i think it is just about following this cycle in every process, of change or improvement and communication.

 

 

Conclusions

Throughout the text we have been arriving to partial conclusions. However, let me recap on them so as to strengthen the most important concepts.

  • Recognition of available information
  • Standardizing tasks or processes
  • Normalizing tasks and processes time
  • Proposed indicators and objectives
  • Communicate and explain to the team

The process of studying methods, standardization and normalization of times is complex, and in some cases it takes a long time (thus involves high costs), which is why it must be carefully executed and analyzed in order to finally achieve a really useful tool of time control and efforts
The result of this type of interdisciplinary work should be directly targeted to all levels of the company: Directors / Managers / Supervisors or bosses, still include production operators or engineers. The latter will appreciate having this information online in a way to appreciate the result of their individual or group work daily.
However, above all the previous things, it take sense when everyone in an organization understand what the global and individual goals are and what criteria have been set. Everyone in the organization must have at hand the daily view of the indicators of the individual and global progress. By doing so, they will see that they are part of the progress and so they will experience a sense of belonging to something greater.

With these concepts really rooted in all staff processes or procedures, it will flow properly towards the ultimate goal. The latter makes sense when it is effectively communicated to all levels of the organization.

Reference bibliography

Diseño de organizaciones eficientes – Henry Mintzberg
Canarios empresariales – Gary Sutton
Introducción al estudio del trabajo – Oficina Internacional del Trabajo (OIT)
Recognition of available information

Menu