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10 June 2021

Post COVID Time and Action Tracking Model for Manufacturers and other Businesses

Post Covid are two words we all would like to hear, however pleasant those words may be we don't always get what we want... and I like many have made peace with the fact that the pandemic will be a part of our life at least for some time, even if we rid the world of covid-19 our way of life would have been altered. So when I mean post covid it does not refer only to a time when the pandemic is over but includes the days we spend at present as well.

In addition to the pandemic altering our way of life it has directly impacted the way we work as well, posing a greater operational challenge for businesses. However through digital transformation some companies and manufacturers have sought ways to keep the businesses afloat, that is through the implementation of systems such as the Time and Action (TNA) system.

The below article is based on the Time and Action (TNA) system developed by Stack Technologies and implemented in rubber, polymer and footwear based producers in Sri Lanka.

The introduction of a pandemic into our society has alerted many aspects of the lives of the general public and organizations. The impact of a health risk and the need for people to stay at home for longer periods of time not only hindered the usual way of life individually but also changed the way organizations manage and operate.

To counter the challenges forced by the pandemic organizations had no option but to think of new management practices to keep the operations running. With drastic downward fluctuations in demand cost sensitiveness became a crucial and yet were in need of new technologies and procedures to keep the operations alive.

Despite these challenges many companies especially manufactures were able to find closure in new technologically backed operational management practices and systems which allowed them to continue operating at an acceptable pace.

One such approach is the Task And Action (TNA) tracking model, this practice has allowed companies to manage its operations with employees working from home and the few laborers in the shop floor to work without operational bottlenecks. In the same time it allowed the company carry out tasks on time and honor the agreed delivery dates of the customers.

Furthermore, the TNA tracking model allows the management to identify delays in the order cycle and production cycle, compare the bottlenecks to KPI’s and conduct performance evaluations that allows them to grade the dedication of the employees all the while encouraging the employees to work on time.

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With most of the office staff working from home or being called for work on a shift basis companies face a particularly unique challenge in managing the day to day operations of the executives and other office staff remotely. As a result of continuing to practice the conventional management practices company saw a decline in on time work and an increasing number of human errors creating a ripple effect throughout the production cycle.

To overcome the above and many other issues such as tracking employee Key Performance Indicators (KPI), the companies must embrace on a more technological approach to oversee the operational management process. Since many companies utilize both an ERP system and/or Production Scheduling systems the selected approach must be integrated with both these systems for higher transparency and success.

According to Stack Technologies' study on the development and implementation of TNA systems it was found out that the success of the tracking model is based on few principles, to successfully execute, the following principles has to be honored;

  1. Operations Focus – The primary objective is to ensure that the operations are carried out as usual in the company, allowing the management to have more visibility and a hands on approach on control.
  2. Process Approach – The tasks and operations by each employee must be clearly defined and must not deviate or differ from what he/she used to do ensuring that the proper steps are taken at the right time to ensure consistency and a fast tracked production.
  3. Integrated systems – The existing operations are done through the use of multiple software systems connected to each stakeholder department. The TNA process must also be integrated with each touch point for full effectiveness.
  4. Automated Process – The completion of a task must not be recorded manually by an employee but must be automatically identified through the system greater effectiveness and accuracy.
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The implementation process of the TNA tracking process must be done in 3 phases; Each phase is focused on capturing the optimum operational practices as per benchmarks and facilitating a smooth post implementation operation.

Phase I : Operational Process Study

The first phase is conducted similar to a work study but for office workers, it captures the operations and how long it takes to carry out each task. These tasks are then listed according to the job roles to create TNA templates. Each task and sub task is organized from the first to last, that is by identifying the tasks that should not be started unless the previous task connected to it is complete. These templates lays the foundation for the TNA tracking process and its success.

Phase II : Systems Integration

The TNA tracking application is integrated to the existing ERP and Production Scheduling systems to capture pre identified touch points for the purpose of determining the completion of a task or sub task.

Phase III : Training

The employee training or the user training is a key success factor since no one has supervised or used such a practice before. Although there are only a limited number of tasks for a user to manually perform it is essential that all users are familiar with the digitized process of the conventional one.

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Once implemented the users will execute the tasks as usual without any additional work. If they require guidance with respect to the status of a certain task the TNA application can be used as a point of reference and communicate with relevant co-workers to expedite the operations. With the TNA system capturing all emails and every QR/bar code scan and automatically completing tasks, the digitized copies will then be automatically sent to the management and approved or dismissed.

While the TNA model accommodates the operations of tasks related to confirming orders and price lists, it also allows floor managers, line managers and central planners to prepare their production schedules and obtain RM and FG confirmations. The planners are given the ability to request RM through the system according to the BOM that is shared through the TNA application. These constant flows of documents allow the managers on the merchandising sector and production sector communicate in real time as soon as a problem occurs. Also there has been a boost in the accountability of the team as no one in the team can pass the blame if the TNA application shows the task to be ‘incomplete’.

In addition to these the warehouse team also communicates certain documentations on quality checks on RM and FG, lab reports, GRNs etc. Since the TNA application notifies the stakeholders instantly to their mobile devices, thereby the approval/modification process has continued seamlessly despite where the people are.

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Barriers for Implementation

Although the TNA tracking process seems very promising there might be certain barriers that affects the implementation of the practice. These are mainly due to organizational, process and cultural issues.

  • Job Clarity

    In reality no job description is perfect. There are always tasks undertaken by employees which are not mentioned in the Job Description. These may be to get the task done quickly or to avoid future bottlenecks foreseen as a result of years of experience. Streamlining the operations and limiting it to a framework will prevent people from carrying out these tasks which are ultimately positive actions.

  • Day to day Operational Process

    In many organizations the operations will have gaps, these gaps although not visible at a glance have to be addressed prior to moving towards TNA Tracking

  • Investment

    Allocating finances to roll out such a project may be expensive. Given that the climate itself doesn’t encourage manufactures to spend additionally, companies must decide what's best for their operations.

The Benefits

The benefits to the company are straight forward. The TNA tracking model allows the management to streamline the operations given a certain framework. This itself creates

  • Transparency
  • Clarity in terms of operational practices
  • A space for new learning
  • Paper less workplace which also minimizes the contact between people during the COVID climate.

By having to manage the respective departments from the mobile device allows managers and senior management more spare time, which in return can be utilized in the following areas

  • New processes and practices adaptation
  • Investment decisions
  • Recruitment / dismissal decisions

Through the TNA tracking model the CEO and the rest of the senior management can accurately evaluate the performance of the employees as the application is linked to the staff KPI’s and based on monthly reports the management can decide on certain human resources related decisions for underperforming employees.

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The usage of this TNA tracking model as allowed the managers to oversee the daily operations quite effectively and the employees are also keen to preform their respective tasks as they know better performance is highlighted and as a result can demand rewards without any long discussions.

Although in evaluating employees the management must consider the fact that performance gaps may be due to poor computer literacy, adoptability issues to the new model, internet and other infrastructure issues.

Through systems such as TNA manufacturers are given a chance to take one step forward in navigating the unknown by allowing companies to manage its operations with employees working from home and the few laborers in the shop floor to work without operational bottlenecks. In the same time it allowed the company carry out tasks on time and honor the agreed delivery dates of the customers.

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