When designing and assessing a new Route-to-Market system for a consumer goods company, it is often necessary to conduct a time-motion study (TMS) to determine the route effectiveness. A time-motion study is a direct and continuous observation of workers tasks, using a timekeeping device (e.g. stopwatch, handheld) to record the time it takes to accomplish a task. TMS sheds light on how work is done and areas for improvement. By observing the work activities, the operation can better understand the time spent on specific activities and work flow. This will also allow benchmarking of activities in the operation. Here are few key issues to consider:
Grouping activities – Determine the number of categories (e.g. getting the order, merchandising, driving, between outlets, admin). Activities should then be grouped into value-adding and non-value adding categories. It is important not to create too many categories and focus on the important ones.
Value adding activities – Identify where the salesman or supervisor add value. Determine what is important to your customers and to your organization. Normally, value is created in the outlet and common activities include discussions with customers, merchandising and getting the order from the customer.
Non-value adding – Determine the non-value adding activities or tasks of lower importance. This could include driving, lunch and checking emails. It is impossible to eliminate all these activities, but you would like to manage the amount of time spent on non-value or lower value activities. It is important that each operation determines its own important activities. However, there are some common guidelines. A good principle is to maximize the time spent with the customers and activities that help build the business, e.g. merchandising and account development.
Equipment & software – While handheld devices are commonly used, mobile phones are increasingly being used for TMS. The more categories you track, the more likely you will require specialized software. However, for basic time studies in emerging markets, that is unlikely required.
Assessment & Benchmarking – the next step would be to conduct an assessment and benchmark the operation’s internal and external best practices. Measure total time spent and percentage of time spent on each activity. A good starting point is to take your own organization and evaluate sales routes individually.
Potential opportunities could include:
- Not enough time spent in the outlet
- Too many outlets to service
- Excessive drive time
- Too much time spent on admin and meetings
- Long loading and off-loading at the depot or factory
- Over-engineered processes and systems
Capability – Determine if the sales team understands where value is created. Review how you need to communicate the message to the sales team.
Rebalance and drive efficiency – Create a short list of routes and sales personnel that face specific challenges. Improve efficiency by eliminating or reducing certain activities. In some cases route rebalancing might be required. This could be done manually or with software, e.g. Llamasoft or Roadnet.
Tracking – Track changes and keep in mind that TMS is a continuous improvement process. Consider including time studies in your organizational scorecarding. Also consider a Route-to-Market team to track time studies on a regular basis.
Incentivize – Incentivize activities that drive value in the organization. This will send out a message to the sales team that you are serious about tracking and rewarding specific activities.