If you are reading this blog post as part of your OTIF (On Time In Full) quest, let me ask you a question:

“How much time do you spend per week on your quest?”

This question can apply to any of your other quests too; Lean, Kaizen, innovation, staff performance…

If you sat for a moment, and tried to figure this out, how much time are you spending on your quest for higher OTIF performance?

Is it an objective that you have in your business plan, or is it something that you are looking at every day (or at least once per week)?

Finding time for your OTIF quest

It is really easy for me to write a post like this. That is the trouble with planning and knowing what to do, it invariably takes less time than the actions to make the change happen.

I’ve been there. I’ve been in charge of manufacturing output and seen the cripplingly low performance scores. I have known that things need to improve and I had a good idea what to improve. The problem was the incessant phone calls from the unhappy customers who just wanted to know where their stuff was…

It is a vicious cycle.

But, I got out of this loop and you can too. The following points are some ideas that might help you find (or ‘buy’) some time for your OTIF improvement quest.

Start your working day with ‘your quest’

If you leave your most important improvement project to when you have time, let me give you a clue… You won’t find the time.

This has been written about by many other people. You might have seen this as the ‘jar of rocks’ or ‘eating frogs’ but the point is the same. Work on your most important things first.

Also, if you remember the Stephen Covey book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ you will recall the matrix where he defined the difference between urgency and importance.

Working on important things generally prevents urgent things (crises), so I can’t stress this point enough.

Embrace ‘Parkinson’s Law’ with Kaizen

If the last point is making your baulk, don’t worry.

I am not suggesting that you spend all day on your quest, especially if you can’t afford the time. What I am suggesting is that you do something.

A small something fits perfectly in line with the Kaizen approach. Kaizen is all about performing small tasks that push you in the right direction that don’t overwhelm you. The right five minutes of working on a task can be enough to make progress. Five minutes won’t kill your day.

Even if you spend a little more time on your primary quest, Parkinson’s Law is here to help us out. This law states that ‘work fills the time available’. If there is a little less time then magically the distractions start to drift away (or you cut some conversations a little shorter).

Tagging your focus onto routine meetings

If you have routine meetings, you have another opportunity to focus yourself and your team onto the quest.

I am not suggesting that you cripple a perfectly good meeting with the burden of your main improvement project, but just to keep it ticking along and in the consciousness of your team.

If you also apply Kaizen here, then you can split the work up and let everyone take a little bit of the strain. Next time you have the meeting, you can repeat the same process.

Borrowing from existing habits is a great way to push your number one improvement focus forward.

Consider smaller objectives

If you just don’t feel that you are making any progress then consider smaller objectives. This is Kaizen helping us out again.

For the majority of us:

Large objectives + crushing daily schedule = procrastination

An antidote to this dilemma is:

Small objectives + crushing daily schedule = reasonable chance

This is not about being less ambitious. This is about getting results and one of the main points of Kaizen is to overcome inertia. Having smaller objectives, that you crush one after another, is a good strategy to accomplish this.

Build a team

I imagine that your quest to improve your OTIF performance is not something that you have to do on your own. Hopefully you have colleagues and team members that can join your quest.

I mentioned before about splitting up the work with your team at the end of one of your meetings. It might be worthwhile formalising the improvement with your close team, to share the burden on you if nothing else.

Using the Kaizen approach, again, you can start really small and let the team wind up through a series of small wins and confidence boosting experiences.

Just don’t try to do it all on your own!

0,The OTIF Improvement System

Know how you spend your time

My final point brings us back to the start of this article.

How much time do you spend on your OTIF improvement activities?

There isn’t a right or wrong to this answer, but I want you to have a feel for how much time you are spending each week.

Let me give you a clue as to why this is important.

Businesses that deliver on time, consistently (and without the need for blood, sweat and tears!) act and behave in a way that is conducive to high on time delivery performance. They are organised, they have schedules and routines that work for them. Their processes are efficient and effective and they stick to their formula until is has to be changed.

Businesses that have poorer OTIF levels behave differently. They have scattered and inconsistent management. Routines and standards fall over within weeks and take months to get re-established. Discipline with processes is often missing and it can often feel as though the business is held together by the weird gravity of panic.

Getting from where you are currently to where you want to be doesn’t mean that you can suddenly operate a whole new set of processes that somehow just work. It will likely mean that you need to spend a part of your week not just running as fast as you can and instead working on improving your business.

Over time this improvement work should lessen as your better management approach, revised processes and clear accountability start to materialise. It doesn’t have to take long either, but the journey does need to be taken.

This improvement activity will require some time, so here is the real question:

“Does the amount of time you spend focusing on your OTIF improvement feel like you are doing enough to make a difference?”

You should know whether you are spending enough time by your gut feel.

I’ll give you a clue here too. If your answer is in minutes per week, it might be worth considering some of the points above.

Your OTIF improvement journey probably won’t be easy, but it can be straightforward if you put in the time.


Giles Johnston

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who consults with businesses to improve their on time delivery performance, ERP system performance and deploy Kaizen / Lean production methods. Giles is also the author of 'What Does Good Look Like?'.