Maidstone-based refrigeration and air conditioning servicing specialist Flowrite is taking a deep dive into human factors to see how it can improve its offering.
CEO Tod Harrison commented: “We work in an industry where there are many measurements that we use to see if we are delivering the right level of service to our customers – my question is are they the right ones?
“The old adage of ‘what gets measured gets managed’ has remained a fundamental part of business strategy.
“If we use the right measurements employees’ behaviour can be positively influenced to produce a desired change, however, if we are measuring the wrong things we can change behaviour in a way that will not be sustainable or embedded resulting in poor outcomes.”
He believes that the best way to achieve positive outcomes is to change the behaviour and culture of the people who work at the firm, as “that will ensure outcomes are positive and add value to the wider business”.
However, operational risk can have severe repercussions to a business small or large. It is commonly believed that if the infrastructure or equipment is suitably designed then the risk of interruption to a business is reduced to a minimal level.
“Research has shown that 80% of business incidents have their root cause in the fundamental failure of people and the processes they employ; and these can have catastrophic consequences. Industries are increasingly looking into new ways to review and influence their workforces and of these human factor training is being seen as the most effective of these strategies,” detailed Harrison.
He said: “Traditionally in the AC and refrigeration sector we have measured units of output to determine performance which are then reported traditionally 4 weeks after the measurement period has ended. These are very cold and tangible measures which are crucial to measure but who actually benefits from them and can they make a difference to the current performance? These output markers only gauge past performance and as such will highlight historical areas of risk.”
The markers include measures such as:
• PPM task completions
• Reactive task completion
• Number of reactive task
• First time fix rates
• Second visits and recalls
• Number of incidents
In the event of a business failure an output KPI would highlight the incident and its cause after the event; they would not give an ongoing indication of areas of weakness which could potentially lead to failures. According to Harrison: “This is about measuring information that can change the outcome rather than reviewing old historic information which cannot shape the future.
“Although output based types of KPI are important and there is a value to be had from monitoring these, companies are increasingly coming to realise that the focus should be on driving input measures as these influences and reduce the risk of business outages by embedding ‘safe’ behaviours and demonstrating how they affect the business from the outset.”
Input KPI measures are those that ensure the successful operation of a business task through the measurement of potential areas of risk.
Flowrite has translated the human factors approach to management into measuring key input criteria to ensure it minimises business failures and delivers the best experience possible to its customers.
The measures comprise:
• Hours worked and type of hours are measured – controls pressure/stress and fatigue
• Training hours are logged and measured – ensures competency so less business failures
• ILM courses have been scheduled – more confident/communication-led workforce
• Conduct scenario training equipment – engineers are more aware of potential situations
• Team meeting compliance measured – creates a support network for staff and creates teams
• Measure process compliance – ensures correct level of knowledge
• Number of vacancies measured – correct level of resources and reduces time pressures
“We are employing these measures and have seen significant results with the output KPIs, with the key measure that if we control the inputs to the processes we can really begin to make a difference to the service and efficiency of the business,” reported Harrison.
He recommended that these input measures should be formalised into a central contract between service companies and a supplier and supported by a financial risk and reward incentive which is shared equally between the supplier and the customer.
“It is key to make the KPIs/measures a partnership exercise as it means that each party is aware of the others business goals and challenges. This brings an appreciation of each other’s business’ needs resulting in a very open working relationship.”
He concluded: “What is clear from the research is that if a company concentrates on managing its input measures then as a direct result their output measures will naturally improve as a consequence. As a simple equation: empowered staff = greater productivity.
“This approach has been proven by our efficiency ratios across the whole business improving and has supported our approach to business focused on our core behaviours: visibility – make sure we are meeting our people and customers; ownership – own all tasks and make sure they are completed; trust – create a trusting environment where we do what we say when we say it; and excellence – strive to be the best we can be as people and business.”