Whether your company is a single-location or a huge multilocation operation, 2018 should have been a banner year for profits. If it wasn’t, you could be due for some operational improvements.

Too many poorly performing companies rely on a single strategy or practice as a business panacea to achieve better-than-average results. However, no single practice, tool, or idea should be the all-encompassing fix to all your ill ways of doing business.

An overly used and hyped-up tool of the lean manufacturing toolbox is Six Sigma, which is not a cure-all, be-all tool that should be used in every area of your company. I have a Six Sigma lean manufacturing certification with industrial engineering training, so I know it won’t fix everything. Not everything needs to be studied for six months to find improvements that will make a difference. Sometimes, you need a finish hammer, not a sledgehammer like the Six Sigma tool. For instance, if you want to load your delivery trucks more quickly, which makes sense to lower your operating cost and improve your existing capital investment of trucks and forklifts, try these simple process improvements:

1. Use real numbers to validate your improvement processes, such as the average number of deliveries and the time per truck in the yard versus on the road for deliveries per day.
2. Ask the people loading the trucks what they think can be done to help them do their task quicker.
3. Reduce the distance of travel to load the trucks by moving the trucks closer to the inventory being loaded. (Common sense.)
4. Incorporate more trailers than trucks so your yard people can load the spare trailers while the trucks are delivering other loads.
5. Re-evaluate the number of personnel who support the task of loading trucks, which could be vastly improved with the addition of one or two more people.
6. Improve the organization of inventory locations and reduce the quantity of different inventory items.
7. Empower people loading the trucks to make needed changes, such as rearranging inventory and other tasks.
8. Review the changes with the people involved.
9. Make additional changes as they present themselves. It is a constant, never-ending process when it comes to improvements.

These simple process improvements should take only a few weeks, not months, for most changes.

However, don’t let the short time frame fool you; planning ahead is still required—and your plan should include training. Upper management can and should learn about the more complicated tools of lean processes, but, for the training of other employees, it is best to break down the basic lean tools so that all of the areas are easy to understand and execute.

Additionally, it’s important to promote a positive attitude toward constant improvement. Organizations that regularly try to evolve by empowering employees to make improvements and rewarding them for their successes usually outperform companies that are overly reliant on a single process or philosophy for improvement.

You and your company should focus on all the tools that lean manufacturing has to offer. Find the right tool for the different issues within your company, and you will discover just how effective it truly can be for improving the bottom line.