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Cutting Down Turnaround Time

(February 2006) posted on Wed Feb 08, 2006

Advice from production guidelines to dealing with e-mail.

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By Stephen Beals

As deadlines get tighter, it's become an even greater problem in
the production area to meet increasingly faster turnaround times.
Getting control of file production is likely one of the top items on
your to-do list"?but what are some of the best ways to do so?

One of the last resorts most of us wish to take when it
comes to meeting this demand is to simply say, "No." When
a customer makes an unreasonable demand, however, you
might be better off exercising this option. Often, production
managers can be so concerned about not alienating the customer
that they'll lose track of how much taking a job can actually
cost in terms of overtime
or lost opportunities
with other customers.

You also may have
noticed that the customers
who make these demands
are the ones who often do
so consistently. I would
argue that even they may
actually be better off (and
more time-conscious) if you
say "no" once in a while.

But, of course, saying
"no" will always be a last
resort, and doing so will never make the sales office happy. so
think of the following as alternatives to saying "no"?alternatives
that can really boost your shop's turnaround time.

Firm deadlines and incentives

Many shops set deadlines according to whichever customer
is screaming the loudest, which of course is the least efficient
way to handle this. The salesman or CsR comes in and says, "I
need a proof of this by end of day," without bothering to see if
that is possible. Typically, then, the production manager hands
it off to the crew and says, "Make it happen."

One company I'm aware of has the following system:

  • Hot, Hot, Hot Rush = the top of the pile;
  • Hot, Hot Rush = as soon as possible;
  • Hot Rush = in the next couple of days; and
  • Rush = whenever you get around to it.

Nothing ever is entered into the system unless it is at least
a "rush" job. Understand, of course, that the sales office considers
all of the various rush codes to mean their job should be
done first. But there are still only so many hours in a shift, and
only so many employees to push the jobs through. Piling on
unrealistic expectations helps no one"?not company sales, not
company employees, and not the customers.
Cutting Down Turnaround Time