What is an SOP Manual and Why Your Business Should Have One

SOP

While your business may have general instructions employees can reference to complete daily tasks on the job, does your business have an SOP? An SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) clarifies specific actions and procedures to complete various jobs at work. It can also protect you and your employees during a crisis and provides instructions about what to do in case irregular situations arise. Here are a few insights about what a Standard Operating Procedure manual is, and why your business needs one.

 

What is an SOP Manual?

An SOP is a document that explains and educates employees about how to successfully and safely execute a certain work function. Therefore, an SOP manual is an accumulation of many individual procedural instructions employees can study and refer to if questions arise about performing any particular task at work.  Individual SOP documents should provide clear, step-by-step instructions, as well as safety precautions and troubleshooting tips in case an employee experiences difficulties while executing a task on the job.

 

Why Your Business Needs an SOP Manual

The reasons your business should have a thorough SOP manual are virtually endless. From safety to compliance, an SOP can save you and your business a lot of time, money and even help improve health and safety on the job.  Here are the top reasons why your business can benefit from an SOP manual.

Unified Vision: The process of creating an SOP manual for your business has a way of clarifying your business vision, goals, and objectives.  Creating instructions for individual tasks that need to be performed in your business makes you more aware and more familiar with each detail of your business operations.  Furthermore, a centralized SOP manual accessible to all employees equips everyone with a clear focus about how things are done, and what is expected for each function on the job.

Consistent Results:  An SOP manual gets everybody on the same page, literally.  When all members of your staff are referring to the same procedural guides, then your business is more likely to achieve consistent results. Without an SOP, employees may take different approaches to complete job functions. Multiple work practices lead to confusion and inconsistencies, which costs your business time and money.

Reduces Errors: Having a reference manual for employees not only provides consistency in work performance, but it also reduces costly mistakes on the job.  Thorough and concise instructions as found in SOP documents can help your business avoid substandard or unwanted practices when performing work tasks.  When all employees are executing instructions properly, your business is safeguarded against errors and helps ensure quality control.

Saves Money: As explained, an SOP manual encourages safety, consistency and helps reduce mistakes on the job.  The culmination of all these benefits means your business is saving money.  Almost every business owner is either aware of or has the first-hand experience with how devastating mistakes can be to the livelihood of their business.  One mistake can create crippling setbacks in production or even lawsuits in case of employee injury due to accidents on the job.  An SOP manual greatly reduces unnecessary expenses caused by confusion or unsound employee practices.

Compliance: Not only is creating an SOP manual a smart move for your business but it may also be required to obtain an OSHA safety certification. Depending upon your industry and state or federal regulations for your business, an SOP could be mandatory to ensure the safety and protection of your employees.

 

Putting it All Together: Closing Thoughts About Creating an SOP Manual

Creating a Standard Operating Procedure manual may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many SOP templates online that make the job much more simple and less overwhelming.

Whether you opt to use templates or start from scratch, remember the basics of writing an SOP by including the title (name of the task) and an introduction that explains the scope of the procedure. Write clear, step-by-step directions, and include safety instructions in the event something goes afoul with the task being performed. Also, think about adding illustrations for each step of the work function for easier comprehension.  You may also want to include a contact number of a manager in case there are additional questions about a particular task. 

However you go about creating your Standard Operating Procedures, one fact is clear, an SOP manual is an essential asset to keep your business and your employees clear, compliant and safe while working within your company.

Reharvest Timber: Recycling with a Difference

Reharvest Timber

A driving force behind environmental sustainability and responsibility in waste management, Reharvest Timber is an efficient full-service company that handles timber recycling with innovation in mind. Due to this, it has recently been accredited with the Best Eco-Friendly Landscape Product Supply Firm award for 2021.

Reharvest Timber Products Ltd is a timber waste, removal, and recycling company established in 1994 that creates premium products from wood waste. All its services are eco-friendly and are, as a priority, the safest option they can possibly be for children, animals, and the environment. Having been in operation for over 25 years now, it has enjoyed decades of leading its industry into the future with its innovative and forward-thinking operational model. It accepts a wide variety of general timber waste from factory off cuts to prefab timber-walls, but it cannot take wood treated with loaded paint, CCA treated wood, penta or creosote coated wood, or wood treated by insecticide or pesticide. This is all part of its dedication to creating the products that it recycles this wood into with environmental sustainability and customer safety in mind. In this way, it truly ‘reharvests’ used and unwanted timber, using it to create garden mulch, its playground Cushionfall, and animal and equestrian Cushionride. All the latter are biodegradable and have become highly popular across the country.

Its garden product, Enviromulch, is made entirely of untreated and recycled timber, developed to serve any gardening needs no matter what the plot may grow. It can be laid on both flat and sloping surfaces, making it an excellent solution for all kinds of allotments and gardens across a variety of environments. It is both self-stabilizing and wind resistant. Furthermore, it is exemplary for acting as a deterrent to weeds as they find it far more difficult to take root. It also aids in moisture retention across the board, encouraging the health of what the client seeks to grow and being completely non-toxic. As a final note on Enviromulch, it is also far from dull; this solution is available in 5 different colours. Its playground Cushionfall product is similarly notable in its lack of any harmful substances or treatments, being the only five-star rated surfacing solution in New Zealand trusted by childcare institutions across the nation.

It was also rigorously tested during all stages to ensure the best results and the most effective product, which it was only satisfied with after 2 years of intensive product development and 3 years on on-site playground testing. This incredible attention to detail and the creation of an unscrupulous product has been what makes Cushionfall so widely endorsed. The culmination of all this testing was a strict adherence to New Zealand and Australian playground standards of safety, with the product performing in an exemplary manner on international impact absorbance tests. Since its release, Cushionfall has been the preferred choice for municipal and governing bodies, such as the Ministry of Education, Kindergarten Associations, Playcentres Associations, and Pre School Centres.

Its other flagship project is Cushionride, a woodchip surfacing solution for equestrian arenas and animal care industries. Much like Cushionfall, it is focused on impact absorbance as a specialty; however, it has been specifically developed this time for being load-bearing. This quality allows riders and horses to travel over the surface rather than through it, which tends to be the case with many of its competitors’ products or the general grounding services that can be found in its industry. Travelling over rather than through a surface minimizes the likelihood of joint damage, causing far less strain on horses’ hocks, knees, and lower legs when training or competing. This means for significantly less down-time and recovery periods being needed, allowing equestrians to focus on intensive training schedules without risking damage to the animal.

Cushionride has also been specifically designed to be an all-weather solution that enables stellar performance all year round through any conditions or challenges. In this way, it aids drainage so that it doesn’t freeze, and puddles don’t form that could pose a potential threat to animals travelling at speed across it. It is also dust and stone free, reassuring its clients that they will encounter a comfortable and secure ride. Cushionride has become widely lauded across all equestrian disciplines, from dressage and show jumping to trotting, racing, and even polo. It is also the perfect choice for equestrian establishments such as horse-riding arenas, gallops, horse walkers, and breeding sheds. Across the month of January, it has been active in Wanaka, Taupo, and the Dairy Flats, actively working to improve equine arena surfacing in facilities across the areas, a service that is only improving Reharvest Timber’s reputation as a company that gives back to the community.

In the case of all its woodchip surfacing services, its products undergo thorough testing and performance review before it leaves its manufacturing plants. All its processes have been developed to maximise safety and minimise threat to both the environment and the customer, ensuring that there are absolutely no nails, staples, or other unwelcome debris in its products. To this end, it has even implemented a three-year testing regimen to ensure that it is holding itself to its own impact efficiency and general quality standards. In tandem with this, its dedication to environmental corporate responsibility has earned it an Oceania Business Award for the Best Recycled Products Manufacturer, given to it in 2017. Reharvest Timber also prides itself on its ease of installation, offering means by which its wood chips can be pumped in through large pipes from carparks or roads. This negates the need for any back-breaking work to lay the chip and saves money on heavy machinery. The 100% recycled nature of the woodchip also reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfill, helping in the national waste reduction effort.

Further helping to ensure that future generations inherit a better looked after world is Reharvest’s sister company. This business, Wastewood Management, enables the collection and removal of the wood that Reharvest uses in its products. In handling its own collections, it can assure itself and its clients that its flawless operational process is present in every element of its work. It can also better control the timber that makes its way to its plants, reducing the amount that must be turned away and making itself a shining example of efficiency in the recycling industry. It takes timber that it can discern is up to standard, from wood pallet waste to timber waste wood and box wood removal.

 

Company: Reharvest Timber Ltd

Website: www.reharvest.co.nz / www.wastewoodmanagement

Is it Time Your Business Moved Away from Spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets

If there’s one tool that nearly every business uses or has used in the past, it’s spreadsheets. Whether you’re an Excel diehard or you take advantage of cloud-based Google Sheets, it’s long been a useful tool for personal use and basic data analysis. But what if we told you that it might be holding your business back?

While they’re a powerful solution that many are comfortable using, spreadsheets are no longer equipped to deal with the complex, data-related tasks you carry out for your business. Between 70% and 80% of businesses still heavily rely on spreadsheets for tasks including customer relationship management, reporting on business data, and financial reporting, but they aren’t equipped to deal with these functions at an enterprise level.

By implementing a solution tailored to your business needs, you can improve customer satisfaction, increase staff productivity, and ensure your data is always accurate and up to date. Here, intelligent IT solutions provider Perfect Image explores why businesses shouldn’t rely on spreadsheets for all their complex data requirements.

 

How are UK businesses using spreadsheets?

We know that spreadsheets are still heavily relied on in businesses, with over 90% of employees using them daily at work according to a 2019 survey. While the most common use of spreadsheets in business were personal tasks like managing lists and managing tasks in a plan, financial analysis and budget planning weren’t far behind. 59% of employees use spreadsheets for financial analysis, while 58% use it for budget planning.

Spreadsheets are also commonly shared around businesses, with 30% of respondents saying most of their spreadsheets are shared. Many businesses also still rely on emails to share this company data, with nearly half of respondents in a separate study stating this is the case for their employer. There are four major issues with this:

  • Email communications don’t encourage conversation about the data to identify solutions and improvements – let’s face it, nobody wants to be the person who replies all to a company email about performance.
  • It’s very time-consuming to blend data, so data is not readily available for employees who need to see it, when they need to see it.
  • Email volume is high, particularly now, which means important data is greatly diluted in an employee’s inbox – far from optimal when business data is crucial.
  • Sending static reports means the data is often already out of date by the time you press ‘send’.

Why using spreadsheets could be holding your business back

We’re not saying that spreadsheets are entirely unsuitable in a modern business. They have a lot of good use cases, and many people use them every day. To an extent, they’re great for gathering and manipulating data. However, they are also very restrictive and require a lot of manual input and effort.

Some of the biggest issues with using spreadsheets for all data-related tasks include:

Disparate data sources equal data chaos

You can’t accurately measure or analyse your data without bringing it all together. ’Data chaos’ occurs when your data is disparate and difficult to merge. Manually copying and pasting data from spreadsheet to spreadsheet is time-consuming, manual, and very frustrating. It can be prone to human error, like in the case of Fidelity Investments, whose error of missing a minus sign led to a $1.3 billion loss being reported as a gain and a mistaken year-end payment promise to its shareholders!

 

Your data is outdated and unreliable

If your disparate data isn’t brought together into a solution which updates automatically, it quickly goes out of date and therefore becomes unreliable. For example, the customer data your sales team holds might be different to customer service, marketing, and finance teams. If they’re all working on separate spreadsheets, you won’t have unified information.

 

You can’t cross-reference with older data

It’s difficult to track new and old data, because spreadsheets aren’t equipped to deal with large volumes of information. However, updating spreadsheets with only newer data means you miss out on the ability to spot trends over time or compare insights across longer time periods.

 

You’re not making the best use of analysis tools

You can do a lot of different analysis in spreadsheets, but a lot of people tend to have a handful of graphs they regularly use and feel comfortable with, or pivot tables. This method of data visualisation leaves you vulnerable to data distortion. Data needs to be presented in the right way to find meaningful insights. Line graphs aren’t always going to cut it. It’s easy for formulas to go wrong in spreadsheets too, with a scientific paper on economic recovery incorrect due to a formula mistake. With the paper used by world leaders, this could have been a very costly mistake had a student not identified it!

 

Data security issues

Chances are, you’re using spreadsheets to analyse and process sensitive data, like customer information. Many spreadsheets don’t have strong security features – especially if they’re being shared on email. Using recognised cloud solutions with market-leading security protocols means team members can collaborate on spreadsheets together. However, that isn’t intended for more than a few users at once. Plus, data can be changed or deleted – so there’s usually more than one version of the spreadsheet anyway.

Moving away from spreadsheets will also help your employees avoid opening malicious spreadsheets from hackers. It’s well-established that most cyber-attacks start with an email, and 48% of those emails have a malicious Office document like a spreadsheet attached. If your people don’t have to rely on sharing data in Excel, they can more easily spot suspicious attachments.

So, should you move away from spreadsheets?

Most spreadsheet programmes were designed for data storage and basic analysis. Trying to use it for anything else is going to result in frustration, errors, double data entry, wasted time, and security issues.

There are better solutions that will also allow you to do so much more than basic analysis and storage – generally, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions offer far more than spreadsheets. But the exact solution you need will depend on your unique business needs and what you’re looking to achieve.

If you’re processing, analysing, and storing customer data, you’ll need a CRM system that updates in real-time and has market-leading security features. Leading solutions will unify all of your data into one reliable, up-to-date solution. You never have to worry that different teams are using different sources of data again. You get a full 360-degree view of every single customer, including their history, interactions, and preferences. That means you can build deeper, longer-lasting relationships with them and sell more effectively.

A tool that takes care of data and analytics is essential for wider business data. Merge, blend, cleanse, and prepare data with ease. Drag-and-drop workflows make working with data a breeze. Advanced analytics allow you to ask “what if” questions without the risk of waiting for answers. Data visualisation platforms replace reams of numbers with the answers you need – fast.

These solutions, as well as standalone enterprise resource management (ERP) systems will also allow you to manage and analyse your financial data. You can gain visibility of financials across your whole business. Many leading solutions will integrate with one another, meaning there are no siloes between systems, you can sell better, and optimise operations. It helps you to streamline business processes, improve customer interactions, and make better decisions.

There’s no doubt that spreadsheets have a time and a place, but that isn’t necessarily as the main solution to your business’ many data requirements. Find a powerful solution more suited to your unique needs – don’t let spreadsheet difficulties and data chaos hold you back. It’s time your business implemented a solution that meets all of your needs, instead of struggling to use spreadsheets in ways that they weren’t built for.

 

Andrew Dinning is Head of Data & Analytics Solutions Architecture at Perfect Image, a UK based IT managed services company.

How to Maintain Your Seals During Periods of No Use

hydraulic seal

It is vital to check your seals constantly whether the machinery is being used or not. Especially during periods of no use, this is the perfect time to check your seals for any signs of damage and wear that you may need to address. It’s important to do this as seal failures can lead to equipment problems which may be detrimental to your equipment and business.

Whether you deal with hydraulic or pneumatic seals such as wiper seals, they must be able to withstand a range of environments and practises such as extreme temperatures, high pressures, chemicals and contamination.

In this article, we will give you some tips on what to watch out for when looking for problems in your seals and how to maintain your seals during a period when they are not being used.

 

Proper storage

If a seal is in a period of no use, storing them properly can prevent future failure. Properly storing seals includes putting the seals and their hardware in a cool environment. You must also disassemble the seals and sort each part individually, making sure not to store seal faces together as they could end up losing their flatness.  

 

Lubrication

Lubrication is a must in seals and most machinery as it can prolong the life of seals due to the motion they are usually under. When looking at the seals, check that lube is present. If there is none present or only a small amount, place some grease around the seal. Checking for grease is important to prolong the life of your seal.

 

Contamination

Just because the machinery is not being used does not mean that contamination is not still present in the seal. If the seal has not been checked after its last use, then contamination may still be present. Contamination may come from metallic shavings, powder, dirt, mud, grit, and other solid particles. These may be picked up during operation and can damage the seal when passing through.

 

High temperatures

If the seal has been stored somewhere that has a high temperature, the heat can cause damage to the seal. The heat can cause the seal to harden and degrade quickly. The material of the seal can  break off when hardened, and this can then cause more contamination along the whole machinery or pipe network.

 

Pressure

The pressure that your seal has been under could cause the seal to fail. This might have been because it is over pressurised. Check for pressure strikes in seals. If you can see any, then you may need to replace the seal with a one that is made to be under higher pressure.

 

Chemical deterioration

If there has been a corrosive fluid used, then this may cause a breakdown in the seals’ material. You need to have made sure that the material the seal is made out of is right for the fluid passing through it. Especially when connecting a seal to a hydraulic system using chemical fluid, this may create fractures in a material. The chemical deterioration can cause swelling or shrinking of the seal.

 

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand seals more and how you can look after them after periods of no use. Whether your seals or being used or are in storage, maintenance is important to keep them in good condition for present and future use to make sure they don’t fail.

Aviation industry gearing up for travel as hiring booms

aviation

Specialist aviation recruitment expert, Staffing Match, has reported a spike in demand for baggage handlers, ramp agents and check-in staff as the travel industry prepares for take-off once again.

While the official green light hasn’t yet been given by the Government, the aviation recruitment specialist has already seen larger airlines ramping up hiring across major UK airports including Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham and Manchester.

According to Staffing Match, while the confirmation that international travel can resume from 17th May under a traffic light system is yet to be granted, the fact that many new recruits have been out of action for the last year has led to an early demand for new resources to allow for sufficient training.

Dan Carlin, Business Director at Staffing Match, commented:

“While it’s certainly encouraging to see confidence currently returning for the UK’s aviation industry after what has been an incredibly tough year, the challenge now is getting enough staff on-board and re-trained in a short time frame. Airports and airlines can’t simply flick a switch and return to pre-pandemic levels of flights, so the fact that we are currently seeing recruitment of front-of-house staff ramp up is a promising sign. We will, of course, have to wait and see what happens closer to the Government’s May deadline, but signs are certainly looking promising at the moment.”

6 Ways Water Efficiency Can Save Your Business Money

Close up of blue toned water

Water is an essential resource for everyone. When it comes to businesses, water is vital for daily activities—from the water employees use for drinking and making tea, to flushing toilets, cleaning offices, and ensuring the surrounding landscape is green and flourishing. 

As you might expect, commercial and industrial establishments will use more water than all households combined as they cater to their employees’ and clients’ needs, while also maintaining their offices. On average, office buildings consume 50 liters for each employee every day, and even more if it’s in a manufacturing industry. 

According to waterfootprint.org, a business’s water footprint is the total amount of water used to produce goods or services. This includes water used throughout the supply chain process until it reaches end-users or consumers.

Unfortunately, water is becoming a scarce commodity for everyone. The Water Resources Group states that only 1% of freshwater is readily accessible for millions of people worldwide. They also foresee water shortages by as much as 40% worldwide by 2030.

Water shortage can greatly impact everyone in the future, so it’s about time we make water efficiency a business priority. But aside from being an earth-friendly endeavor, water efficiency can help also businesses save money in several ways:   

 

1. By Reducing Water Bills 

Businesses looking for ways to reduce operational costs can find potential savings in implementing water-saving strategies and technologies. One way you can make sites and offices water-efficient is by detecting and fixing leaks. Taking care of leaky faucets and pipes can reduce water bills by as much as 30%

Also, businesses can install the following water-efficient devices:

  • Spray taps, push-tops, or infrared controls to reduce water use by 50% 
  • Sensor-controlled or waterless urinals to decrease toilet water consumption by 70% 
  • Low-flush toilets that use as little as 6 liters per flush
  • Rainwater collection devices such as water butt taps for watering plants
  • Insulation for cold and hot water pipes and tanks 
  • Low-volume showers to limit water use by up to 50%
  • Eco-labeled equipment for restaurants or canteens 

Fixing leaks and installing water-efficient fixtures and equipment are practical ways to ensure your business is water-efficient. This can reduce overhead costs and translate to noticeable savings now and in the future.

 

2. By Increasing Your Tax Credits

Governments worldwide are encouraging businesses to take part in water conservation initiatives by providing them with grants, rebates, and tax credits to implement energy-efficient projects. Commercial buildings that will transform into green buildings can take advantage of tax deductions for using energy-efficient hot water systems. To give you a better idea, you can get credits of up to $1.80 per square foot in the US if you can reduce energy use by 50%.    

Aside from energy-efficient technologies, tax benefits are also awarded to businesses that use water as renewable energy. They can avail of government rebates and grants when they install rainwater-harvesting systems, wastewater systems, water recycling and reuse systems, and desalination technologies. These innovations treat non-potable water so it can be reused for irrigation or wash-down applications. 

Taking advantage of these incentives will lower business taxes. Simultaneously, it allows companies to obtain government backing for energy conservation and water efficiency efforts. 

 

3. By Attracting Free Promotions 

Your efforts to save water can also work to your advantage by giving your brand an eco-friendly image that most clients and consumers will likely support. Sustainable initiatives can also catch the attention of new investors, even without much advertising. There’s also a growing number of companies that advocate for water conservation and other movements that aim to protect and preserve the environment. 

When your brand is eco-friendly, you’ll likely benefit from free advertising via ‘word-of-mouth’ because environmental advocates aim to get more people on board, and will often promote brands that support their advocacy, all for free. 

 

4. By Influencing Future Business Decisions

Companies can transform water-related savings into long-term financial gains by instituting water efficiency measures as part of their business practice. As more value is placed on water and its importance to daily operations, you’ll be better equipped to make business decisions about its use and disposal. This may also compel you to become resourceful in water sourcing and conservation to mitigate risks and ensure water shortage resilience. 

Business owners shouldn’t only plan on current cost-cutting measures, but also seek to translate them into sustainable investments. 

 

5. By Reducing Impact On Water Consumption Rates

With increasing demand and looming scarcity, water rates will surely increase in the future. This can pose additional expenses to businesses, especially those who utilize water as part of their manufacturing process. It may even result in the government having to set water consumption limits for commercial or industrial processes in favor of household or agricultural use. Ongoing conservation efforts can ensure water is continuously available, and that consumption rates remain stable so businesses can continue to utilize water for their future operations. 

 

6. By Reducing Dependence On Freshwater

Water efficiency has long-term benefits for the business and the environment. Apart from reducing your business’ carbon footprint, it also helps make freshwater more available for the future. 

Reducing dependence on freshwater also compels businesses to seek alternative water sources through water recycling. In the food industry, water is reused for cooling towers and boilers, washing plant machinery, flushing toilets, cleaning floors, and washing vehicles. 

Apart from reducing dependence on freshwater, recycling water also increases water savings and can reduce wastewater fees. Furthermore, it can serve as an opportunity for businesses to expand their services and cater to the environmentally-conscious consumers’ water requirements. 

 

Conclusion 

There are many ways water efficiency can help businesses save money. Properly installed fixtures can reduce overhead costs, while using energy-efficient technologies and implementing measures to save more water will turn you into an eco-friendly company, and earn the trust of water conservation advocates who may promote your brand for free. 

No matter what type of business you’re running, water efficiency offers benefits that will help you endure even when water shortage becomes an inevitable issue.  

Earth Day: Engineering a circular food economy

circular economy

Today is Earth Day! This annual event is held to support environmental protection. Manufacturers are increasingly held accountable for their carbon footprint, a leading UK engineering firm has its sights set on developing a more circular economy. 

Presumably, many people’s initial thoughts turn to single-use plastic, air pollution and renewable energy when asked about sustainability, and whilst those things are crucial, people often forget about the detrimental effects of food waste and its packaging. 

Here, James Sopwith, Group Strategic Account Director at adi Group, explains how the engineering firm is doing its bit for the planet and how food manufacturers and more can play their part in leading a low-carbon economy.

 

Harnessing heat energy

Earth Day 2021 is about raising awareness of the ongoing damage being made to our planet through human action, and more importantly, inaction – so it is down to us to put it right and make a difference before it’s too late. 

Here at adi Group, we want to not only encourage manufacturers across all sectors to make a positive impact on the environment, but also drive forth efficiency and lower their operational costs at the same time.

As well as dedicated service divisions that manage aspects of water pollution and waste management, just one of the ways in which we are achieving this is by being innovative in the use of waste heat from gas-fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants

Taking the immense amount of heat energy from gas-fired CHP power plants, which would usually go to waste, we provide manufacturers with a model to harness this energy and redeploy it within several of their own processes.

Our market business partnership also delivers a fantastic way for us to guide and advise manufacturers across the UK to become more efficient, affording a CAPEX free solution to their upcoming energy needs, whilst also reducing their carbon footprint.

We can easily see how this could begin to transform industries that utilise a vast quantity of energy in their production processes, such as the food and beverage sector.

But whilst this concept begins to take hold, what other ways can engineering help to produce a truly efficient circular economy?

 

Long-term effects of food waste 

You may ask why food waste is so damaging. Well, food production is responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and when food decomposes, it gives off a lot of methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Both of which are astonishing figures. 

And, if we’re all completely honest, we are all guilty of wasting food here and there, with one third of all food produced globally going to waste. Truth be told, it is much more damaging than you might realise. 

As somebody in the industry, I firmly believe that manufacturers have a duty and responsibility to lead on such an issue which has serious economic, moral, and environmental impacts. And engineering has its part to play, too. 

Operating as a vital support mechanism for food manufacturers, it is down to firms like us to help drive change, identifying processes within food factories that can limit and reduce food waste up and down the country.  

We can do so by making food production cleaner and more efficient whilst also extending the shelf-life of products, not to mention upping the ante on automated processes. 

Some of this is already in the works, with encouraging signs. The robotic chef for example, has been designed in such a way to emulate the work of a chef, helping to dictate on matters such as taste, consistency, quality and value, while reducing wasted ingredients in ready meals and other chilled foods.

Elsewhere, the Waste Systems division at adi Group is the UK and Ireland distributor of Sotkon, an innovative underground waste container system, offers councils and businesses a truly 21st century approach to waste management through smart data systems. 

Eliminating unsightly overflows of food waste packaging and more, the smart system notifies responding waste management organisations when containers are full. Usage data can be captured at the point of collection, and logistic systems communicated with to determine optimum routing, so that carbon footprint and emission reduction benefits are realised.

 

Giving food and packaging a second life 

It isn’t just food waste, though. It’s packaging, too.  

The life of both food and its packaging doesn’t simply end when it is thrown away. If not repurposed and put to good use, food will simply rot, releasing harmful emissions into the air whilst in landfill. 

This is why it is important to raise awareness of the additional value and potential of food packaging. Increasingly, we are seeing brands manufacture products and packaging that have been recycled or have an intended second purpose.  

Coca-Cola, for example, announced a circular recycling campaign in 2019, in which they enlisted the help of the public to ensure their plastic bottles and cans continue to be reused, repurposed, and recycled. 

And it is campaigns such as this, combined with the efforts of manufacturers and the engineering industry, that can make a huge and impactful difference to the world we live in. 

Interestingly, mushrooms are also becoming more commonly used as a source of packaging, with Styrofoam-like material being made up of fungus roots and residues from farming. After use, the packaging can be broken down within compost at home.

By repurposing the inedible parts of foods, they can be utilised for a multitude of different things, which in turn limits the amount of food ending up in landfill and reducing GHG emissions. 

As things stand, the consequences of food waste are already serious enough, but if we committed to implementing such changes across manufacturing and beyond, just imagine how much of an impact this would have in engineering a brighter and cleaner future for all.

 

A greener future 

By utilising the tools and technology available to us, combined with increasing awareness within the manufacturing industry, we aim to help engineer a more circular economy. One that sees less food waste, more recycled products and multi-purpose packaging.  

Engineers and manufacturers must continue to work together in this regard to contribute at both a micro and macro level, improving self-operational processes as well as making headway to the UK Government’s low carbon future initiatives.

manufacturers increasingly held accountable for their carbon footprint, a leading UK engineering firm has its sights set on developing a more circular economy. 

Presumably, many people’s initial thoughts turn to single-use plastic, air pollution and renewable energy when asked about sustainability, and whilst those things are crucial, people often forget about the detrimental effects of food waste and its packaging. 

Here, James Sopwith, Group Strategic Account Director at adi Group, explains how the engineering firm is doing its bit for the planet and how food manufacturers and more can play their part in leading a low-carbon economy.

4 Clever Ways To Make Extra Cash In The Transport Industry

transport

There are many ways in which you may be able to make some extra cash in the transport industry, if you know how. Read our blog to find out more.

For those in the transport industry, 2020, and now 2021, have been mixed years. Some parts of the industry have been doing well, such as shipping, and others, like aviation, have been struggling. No matter what sector your business is in, if you own a transportation company, you’re likely on the lookout for ways to make more money in the coming year.

Below are four tips that will help you to earn extra money, by focusing on:

  • How to free up your cash flow
  • How to run your operations more efficiently,
  • And, how to make sure that you’re ready for the inevitable changes of the next few years and beyond.


1. Focus on cash flow

Anyone moving freight can tell you that cash flow can be a major problem. Whether you’re an owner-operator, or you’re managing a fleet of trucks, it’s tough to wait on payment for up to 90 days. You likely have all kinds of useful things that you could be doing with that cash right now. One solution is “freight factoring,” which is explained well in this guide from TAFS.

More generally, “factoring” is a simple enough idea. If you have a $10,000 invoice, billed to a customer with 30 days to pay, you could go to a factoring company instead of waiting. That company might offer to pay you 95% of that invoice’s value, with 80% as an advance, and another 15% upon payment by your customer. That means you get:

  • $8000 right away
  • Another $1,500 upon payment
  • And the factoring company gets a $500 fee (5%). (1)

Factoring can help you to make money by freeing up your cash flow. With that $8,000 advance, you could invest in maintenance or other things that can help you to operate more efficiently. (1)

If you increase the volume of freight that you can ship, as you do so more efficiently, you can ultimately earn more in the long run. When it’s working well, the factoring company gets their cut, but you ultimately make more money by having access to funds when you need them. (1)


2. Run an efficient back office with digital tools

If increased efficiency can help you to earn more money, there’s one easy place to look: your own back office. Fleet management has always been complicated, but digitizing certain processes could help you to earn more money.

A Boston Consulting Group study from 2018 found that “automating manual processes now could reduce certain back-office […] costs by up to 40%.” The focus of their report, freight forwarding, has implications for the wider transport industry as well. (2)

This argument is intuitive: if digital solutions can help to stem the flood of paperwork that your transportation company generates, they’ll save you money. If they can make your business operate more efficiently, they’ll help you to earn more money too. (3)

There are lots of options to consider, including:

  • Implementing solutions that allow drivers to do some of the processes that used to happen in the back office via iPad or other digital device
  • Or, using a service that pairs optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning (ML) to read and process hand-filled forms. (3)


3. Make sure that you understand your costs

Depending on the kind of business that you’re running, the process of calculating your costs will vary, but no matter what, you should make sure that you know what they are. If you don’t understand your costs, you’re likely to either lose money, or fail to make as much as you could otherwise. For example, you won’t be able to set rates that will ensure your profitability.

One key thing to understand is the difference between two types of cost:

  • Fixed costs—These are costs that won’t change based on the volume of business that you’re doing. If you run a business manufacturing mugs, you might have a fixed cost of $10,000 a month to rent a facility. Whether you use it or not, you have to pay that $10,000; that’s a fixed cost. For transportation, these are costs that don’t depend on the number of miles that you’ll be driving. Payments on vehicles, permitting costs, and insurance all fall under this category.
  • Variable costs—These are costs that do change with the volume of business that you do, or in the case of transportation, the number of miles that you’ll need to travel. Using the mug example above, say your firm pays $2 a mug—if you make more, your costs will go up. Make 500 units this month? Your variable costs are $1,000. Make 1,000 mugs the next month? The costs increase to $2,000. For transportation, fuel usage is a key variable cost, as are maintenance and other similar expenses. (4)


4. Look to future trends

Companies that fail to anticipate the future in an industry can end up getting left behind. One clever way to make money in the transport industry is to make sure that you’re ready for the next big thing before it happens. This way, you’ll be well-positioned to meet consumers where they are, rather than struggling to catch up.

For those in the United States, this means recognizing the likelihood of coming climate regulation, and the growing consumer demand for green products and services. As outlined by Maria Mendiluce in the Harvard Business Review, the following are some things to keep in mind as you plan for the future of your business:

  • Climate regulation is coming—The world’s governments are headed for a “net-zero” future. The European Union has set a 2030 target to cut emissions in half, and the United Kingdom is going to end the sale of new gas and diesel cars in the same year. For a transportation company, it would be unwise to think that the same kind of regulations aren’t coming in the United States. Plan now, while there’s time to do so.
  • Delaying action is risky—Planning now can prevent you from being the Blockbuster or Kodak of the transportation industry. There’s a real risk in waiting; competitors will ready themselves for what is coming, and you should too.
  • Public investment in green industries may rise—It’s extremely likely that there will be an increased focus by federal and state governments on investing in clean energy and other green industries. Transportation won’t be an exception, so keep an eye out for opportunities to join public-private partnerships or other programs. (5)

 

Conclusion

If you’re running a transportation company, then following the tips above should help you find ways to make some extra money—not just this year, but for many years to come. Focus on ways in which you can free up cash to spend on things that will help you to grow more in the future. Consider your costs, and how digital tools can help to keep them down while allowing you to do more with less. Finally, make sure that you’re ready for what’s coming, and don’t miss out on future business opportunities due to focusing too much on what’s happening today.

110 years after International Women’s Day began – gender diversity is still a serious issue in the industrial, transportation and construction industries

Women in construction

Despite campaigning for gender parity for more than 100 years, the latest research shows that 68% of managers within the construction industry believe their sector still struggles with a lack of gender diversity.

The research, which comes from multi-discipline recruitment experts, Search Consultancy, was conducted with 1,000 managers and asked respondents to rate how they believed their industry compared against a range of diversity markers.

The full list, from most to least diverse in terms in gender representation, is:

 

  • Legal – 40%
  • Hospitality – 44%
  • Marketing – 49%
  • Sales – 50%
  • Scientific – 52%
  • Engineering & manufacturing – 52%
  • Logistics – 53%
  • Call & contact centre –  54%
  • Accountancy & finance – 55%
  • Business support – 56%
  • Social work – 56%
  • Healthcare – 57%
  • Financial services – 59%
  • HR – 59%
  • Industrial – 60%
  • Transportation – 63%
  • Construction – 68%

 

The research also looks into racial and age diversity within businesses across the sectors. 56% of managers in the construction  industry believed their business lacked racial diversity with 54% admitting age diversity was an issue.

66% of managers also believe a more diverse workforce would help resolve the skills shortage in the construction industry.

Erin Vickers, director of talent and engagement at Search Consultancy, said: “Although research shows that 83% of managers in the construction  sector believe their industry is suffering from a skills shortage, little is being done to encourage a more diverse workforce and consequently widen the talent pool available.

“The benefits of having a diverse team are endless. Looking outside of the typical candidate demographic can help resolve the skills shortage, create a better understanding of customers and significantly improve employer brand. Now more than ever, it is time to encourage increased diversity in the workplace and help businesses grow following a very difficult 12 months.”

To read more about diversity in your sector and how it can help resolve the skills shortage, read Search Consultancy’s latest report, here: https://bit.ly/3c5gPVx

Mitigating Common Challenges in Fleet Management

fleet management

Fleet management is an essential part of any company that owns and uses multiple vehicles. The more you have, the more challenging maintaining and choosing vehicles is. You likely want to improve productivity while reducing your organization’s costs. Successful managers often have a significant amount of experience. However, it can still be challenging, even if you have the most experienced staff members. Mitigating these issues is the key to successful results.

 

Reducing Costs

See if you can do more while having fewer resources. It’s about more than just having efficient managers. Nearly every department requires efficiency since they want to spend less and get better results. It might not be possible in every case but look for ways of improving your operations. Have accurate information and use technology to streamline your processes. Otherwise, you might end up with false results. Consider using fleet management software. You can review a guide on choosing the best tools to learn more. While there are ways of improving your efficiency, don’t cut corners. For instance, some companies use vehicles designed for both personal and business use. But the issue is that it is harder to track each driver’s behavior, reducing the ability to manage productivity and safety.

 

Keeping the Drivers Productive

Your drivers are a great asset, but they can cost money as well. One of your key focuses should be reducing their downtime and wasted hours. Make sure you do as much as you can to maximize their productivity. Technology makes that easier since it can streamline reporting, refueling, and finding the best route. At the same time, it reduces the need to enter data and fill out forms manually. Consider your productivity level as well. If your drivers have to manually input information, you end up wasting your time too. You might have to look for mistakes and follow up on them when doing something more productive. Automation eliminates instances of human error so that you can get accurate data with less work.

 

Changes in Fuel Prices

It’s hard to keep track of fuel costs, especially since they are often volatile. However, if your company depends on your fleet, the chances are good that fuel takes up a large portion of your budget. Any price change can drastically impact the cost of doing business. If you underestimate these costs, you might need to cut back in other places to cover the issue. Besides predicting fuel prices, you might choose to reduce your use to lower overall costs. These price fluctuations won’t have as big of an impact on your organizations if you don’t use them as much. Do your best to allocate a smaller portion of your budget toward these things.

 

Teams Who are Spread Around the Area

Larger companies often have teams around the country and even internationally. It’s often difficult to track each operation while maintaining communication. Plus, locating fleet vehicles around these locations is often difficult since it requires using a large map. Many organizations are using advanced mapping techniques to combat these challenges.

4 Tips For Building A Conveyor Belt Production Line In Your Start-Up

conveyor belt

Cars of the early 1900s were few and expensive because it took a lot of time to make one. However, Henry Ford came up with an idea to cut both time and cost by integrating conveyor belts into his assembly line. By 1913, his new and improved assembly line could make a Model T in two-and-a-half hours, ushering in the era of affordable transportation.

These days, it’s nearly impossible to find a factory or plant that doesn’t use conveyor belts. They ferry manufactured goods from one end of the facility to the next, all without making people move from their posts. The efficiency Ford achieved with his assembly line in 1913 was phenomenal—what more with today’s assembly lines?

 

Streamline Production with Conveyor Belts

Conveyor belts may seem like a big-ticket investment, but small enterprises need them as much as big ones do. Keep in mind that the Ford Motor Company was only ten years old when it introduced the assembly line. Therefore, using the advantages you have from the start ensures that your business will eventually have a place among prominent competitors.

Such advantages are more important than ever as the industry as a whole is undergoing a significant change. Experts refer to this as Industry 4.0, harnessing digital technology to improve productivity and interconnectivity. However, the term no longer concerns factories and plants alone—non-industrial businesses are involved as well.

Unless you’re in the business of producing intricate tech, you won’t need the kind of assembly line Ford has. Nevertheless, you need a production line to streamline your processes and fulfill demand more quickly. Here are some tips to get you started in building a conveyor belt production line:

 

1. Pick the Right Type

Conveyor belts are custom-made for a number of industries handling a wide variety of items. They typically fall under one of the following single conveyor systems:

  • Roller Bed – The belt runs on top of a series of rollers rated to move at a certain speed and handle specific weights. This system is ideal for items loaded via gravity, transporting them across the premises with ease. 
  • Flat Belt – The most widely used type, this system is known for its versatility. The belt can consist of natural or synthetic fibers, allowing for the handling of various goods. Industrial businesses often make use of flat belt systems.
  • Modular Belt – This system is ideal for production lines that have to run around corners or tight spaces. The belt consists of interlocking pieces, making cleanup and repair easy. Food production commonly employs modular belts.
  • Cleated Belt – The belt consists of cleats for constant spacing even as it goes up and down. The cleats can be custom-made based on the kinds of goods they’ll handle, from the typical T-shape to an inverted V-style.
  • Sanitary/Washdown – Designed to comply with sanitary guidelines, this system can handle temperature extremes like food out of the freezer or food coming out after deep frying. It’s also applied to sterilization and washing.

Choosing the right conveyor system involves determining the goods it’ll have to handle regularly. Sometimes, a production line may need to employ more than one system.

 

2. Consider Lean Manufacturing

Mass production tends to generate a lot of waste, which takes up precious space in the workplace. A start-up that can’t afford a full-fledged factory has to devise ways to reduce generated waste and make the most out of every square footage. Experts say adopting lean manufacturing principles is a step in the right direction.

Lean manufacturing (also called lean production) involves achieving the greatest possible output using the least possible amount of resources. By optimizing various processes and inspiring a sense of teamwork among workers, a ‘lean’ factory can prevent waste buildup. 

Aside from material, waste also refers to the work itself. For instance, Toyota’s lean manufacturing principles reduce three types of work-related waste: non-value-adding work, overburden, and unevenness. A production line must always strive to achieve lean-based goals through a combination of teamwork and modernization.

 

3. Design a Process Flowchart

A production line consists of dozens of steps, each with a dozen more procedures. Visualizing them in a flowchart is an effective way of determining the steps that need conveyor belts and other heavy equipment. Start with the customer’s order and end with preparing to ship the finished product.

For each step in the production line, outline the required equipment, average time, and conditions for passing quality control. In a conventional flowchart fashion, indicate the process for items that don’t pass quality control checks. A smooth production line should have a critical control point for every two to three steps to mitigate defective manufacturing.

Also, include in the chart the steps to take for handling excess materials or canceled orders. It may result in a flowchart that appears complicated, but it lets you see the entire process down to its nuts and bolts, giving you an idea.

 

4. Minimize Foot Traffic

The idea for getting conveyor belts is to lessen the need for workers to move around the workspace. Designing a workspace that encourages foot traffic defeats the purpose of having a conveyor belt network in place. Build your production line in a way that shortens the distance between steps as much as possible.

Think along the lines of Honda and its Assembly Revolution Cell (ARC) production system. Used in their Thailand plant, the ARC features four workers on a platform that carries the vehicle’s body and necessary parts. Everything they need to complete the car is already on the platform, reducing unnecessary movement and increasing efficiency.

As intricate as it seems, integrating multiple processes in one place lessens the burden on workers and the equipment. Let conveyor belts cover the distance, and your workers stay put.

Whether or not a conveyor belt will be crucial, the constant growth of technology and demand for quality will warrant a production line. Start-ups with an efficient production line are in an excellent position to reap the rewards of producing more in less time and expense. To survive and flourish in this business climate, they must start thinking about the future, just as Ford had dreamed about building “a car for the great multitude.” 

What is 3PL logistics and how can it give you peace of mind?

3PL

Today, most people prefer to build an online business as it allows flexibility and ease of use. However, running a business isn’t an easy task, especially when you’re just starting out. You’ll need to conduct product and market research, purchase enough inventory, plan your marketing strategies, and officially launch your brand online. While that is definitely hard work, it’ll get even harder when you’re already live and taking orders.   

When your business is running and orders are incessantly coming in, you’ll probably feel happy and stressed at the same time. You’ll be glad because your company is becoming a success and stressed because you’ll be facing difficulties fulfilling multiple orders while simultaneously handling customer service and marketing campaigns. 

To reduce your stress, consider hiring a third-party logistics company (3PL) for your business.  

 

What is 3PL?   

Third-party logistics is an outsourced service that handles your warehousing, packaging, and delivery. 

When a customer orders an item through your website, instead of picking the items, packing them, and bringing them to your local courier company, the 3PL logistics company will do the job for you as soon as you forward the order details to them. They’ll handle every step necessary to bring your products to your customers safely.   

A 3PL company will take the item from their warehouse, securely wrap the product—especially if it’s fragile—pack it, and send the product to the customer using their couriers. In this way, you’ll have more time to focus on the other aspects of your business that you’d like to improve.   

 

What Are The Benefits Of A 3PL?   

Many companies either do drop shipping or use a 3PL company. It can make you wonder, why are business owners going for their service? What do they gain from it? 

Listed below are the advantages of using a third-party logistics service for your store:   

 

Cost-efficient  

If your business is handling a large number of orders every day, you might not be able to fulfill your orders on time. To keep business running smoothly and ensure you’re sending out orders within one to three days, you might need to hire more staff to handle your order fulfillment process. While that can be helpful, it can also be an added cost for your business.

By availing the services of a 3PL company, you don’t have to worry about hiring more people, as the company will get it done for you. They’ll handle any issues, including hiring additional staff. All you have to worry about is keeping up with the inventory. They’ll handle everything else on their end.   

While hiring a 3PL company can be costly, it’ll save you money and time as you don’t need to worry about employing more people and renting a warehouse.   

 

Saves Time

Sorting and packing orders can take up a significant chunk of your day. You need to make sure that they’re correctly sealed and wrapped perfectly to avoid any damage while in transit. While you’re handling that area of your business, you may not have enough time to manage other aspects your business such as customer service.   

Hiring a 3PL company will enable you to use the time you spend on order fulfillment to work on other essential areas of your business.   

With a 3PL company, you don’t need to worry about allotting a specific time of the day to pack orders when you can just focus your attention on handling your customer concerns and planning effective marketing strategies

 

Improve Customer Experience  

When customers place an order through your website, they expect it to be delivered to their doorstep immediately. To do that, you must start shipping out their items as soon as you receive their order. However, that can be challenging to do if you frequently get a lot of orders daily. A 3PL company will be able to fulfill your order promptly, so your customers can receive their items as soon as possible.   

If you’re residing in a rural area, using a local 3PL company may not be the best choice as it’ll take additional time to get your products out to the customers. To help you minimize your delivery timeline, work with an interstate logistics company as their team and couriers are typically faster with handling orders coming in from different areas.   

When your customer receives their orders quickly, preferably within one to three days, they’ll be delighted with your service and would consider re-ordering from your store. Remember, some customers tend to give a lower rating on review sites if they received the item late, even if they enjoyed the product. To avoid unfavorable reviews, deliver the items as soon as possible.


Limitless Inventory   

One of the most significant advantages of hiring a 3PL company is that they allow you to store as many stocks as you like. You don’t have to worry about storage space when the 3PL company has got it all covered for you.   

If you’re a huge business and you’ve been selling considerable product volumes, having a well-stocked warehouse would help you never miss a sale. You can continue to sell your products without having to worry about where you’ll store your inventory.  


Peace of Mind  

With a 3PL company, you’ll get peace of mind as they’re professionals who are good at what they do. You don’t have to worry that they won’t be able to deliver on time or use poor packaging because you can easily customize the solutions you get. You’ll also get daily updates about your orders’ status.   

When looking for a 3PL company, ensure that they’re a legitimate company so that they won’t run off with your products. Additionally, you should check their capability to handle large order volumes per day and their warehouse size. Lastly, the 3PL company should be responsive so you won’t have any issues when you have shipment inquiries.   


Conclusion  

Running a business is time-consuming, especially if you do everything on your own. Allow yourself to have extra time to focus on the more important aspects of your business and hire a 3PL company. 

You don’t have to worry about handling the orders by yourself when you can simply forward the order details to your 3PL company. You’ll save plenty of time and money. You’ll also be more confident that things are being handled efficiently and professionally.