As we say goodbye to a dismal 2020 we ask: what does 2021 have in store and how can you streamline your operation in preparation for the coming year?
Now it’s January and little has changed, our future looks just as uncertain, the economy is fluctuating as violently as ever and businesses have few options other than to hunker down and streamline what they have.
Despite this pessimistic overview, you could argue that the reality is much brighter: vaccines are being rolled out in unprecedented fashion and there is a glimmer of hope we might return to business as usual — but nothing is guaranteed and your business needs to operate with a little more caution while continuing to deliver quality service, both for your customers and employees.
In this article we explore the following ways you can streamline your operation through 2021:
- Implementing the Internet of Things into your business
- Cutting fuel costs and reducing admin time using fuel cards
- Streamlining collaboration while working from home with task management software
Weave the Internet of Things through your business model
No business would’ve survived this past year without the Internet of Things (otherwise known as IoT) and it features in some shape or form throughout this article, so it’s only right we introduce the concept right out the gate.
Whether we’re talking about independent restaurants embracing ecommerce through online store builders (like Shopify store or WooCommerce) — or remote agencies using task management software (like Asana). The evolution of the internet and all things technological is a valuable strategy allowing us to continue working in these demanding times.
But many companies operate on the cutting edge of technology, embracing new discoveries and using them to streamline their operation right down to the smallest details.
For example: Have you ever wondered why UPS trucks never make a right turn?
Spotted by only the most eagle-eyed of us, it’s true: drivers for UPS never turn into oncoming traffic — but this isn’t some quirk of the job. The company has developed an intelligent navigation software called On-Road Integrated Operation Navigation (or ORION).
ORION maps out the optimum routes for its drivers, ensuring they make deliveries in the most efficient way possible — and deciding right turns are an absolute no-go.
While artificial intelligence is a rather extreme (not to mention expensive) way to streamline your operation, it does provide an insight into where the Internet of Things is taking us.
Besides, there are widespread alternatives that allow a smaller business, be it a remote agency or fleet company, to collect data and streamline its operations in a similar way…
Cut fuel costs and reduce admin tasks using fuel cards
Throughout 2020 we’ve relied on the transport industry to keep supply chains moving and deliver goods in lockdown. To continue meeting this increasing demand in 2021, fleet companies (big and small) have to streamline their operations and trim the fat.
By this, we mean your fleet needs to cut back on two major roadblocks:
- Fuel costs
- Unnecessary admin work
The price of fuel has always come at a major cost for fleet businesses, dipping and diving like a barometer in line with the world economy — but with an especially turbulent recession on the horizon, it’s more important than ever to mediate this expense as best you can.
And admin tasks are something all companies face, but it’s best to strip these back to the bare minimum. Otherwise, you might be diverting too much attention away from work that pays the bills.
Smaller operations without significant backing — or the too big to fail allure — have the most to lose by not cutting back on these roadblocks because you won’t necessarily have the financial shielding already in place.
The solution? implement small business fuel cards (or SME fuel cards) into your operation — a seemingly innocuous fuel payment method, which packs a punch when it comes to saving time, money, and effort.
Not convinced? Here are the major benefits that could change your mind:
- They mediate fuel prices with fixed rates and discounts: Most fuel card providers offer their clients fixed rates for months at a time, so you protect yourself from uncertain prices. Plus these rates tend to come with a slight base discount.
- They reduce admin time by producing a digital receipt: fuel cards produce digital receipts with every purchase, which also double up as an HMRC approved invoice. This means drivers don’t have to dig out paper receipts from the glove box and your accountants can quickly claim back VAT on expenses.
- They collect key data so you can inform new policies: though not quite the application of artificial intelligence we see at UPS, fuel cards send data back to a fuel management app so you can oversee fuel costs and mileage range covered in your smaller business.
Small changes to a small fleet can make a big difference in streamlining your daily operations. Overall, fuel cards help your business become more transparent, avoid thankless tasks, and maneuver around the minefield of fluctuating running costs.
But what if your business doesn’t rely on vehicles? Next, we explore the operations of a work from home office…
Facilitate work from home collaboration with cloud storage
Of course, the transport industry isn’t the only sector needing to streamline its operations in 2021 — and with the office out of bounds, adapting to become a fully remote setup is proving to be a challenge for all types of businesses.
Although the bulk of remote working is performed in isolation, strong communication is the cornerstone of any efficient operation, something only made harder to achieve now our interaction with colleagues is restricted to the odd Zoom call or private message.
While video conferencing and online messengers are staples of the work from home reality we’ve come to know intimately, they don’t solve the whole problem, which is to extend your larger infrastructure into people’s homes without being overly invasive or muddling the lines of communication.
So, what’s the add-on you need to complete the work from the home toolbox? Embrace task management software — a digital calendar that streamlines your operation by boosting clarity and accessibility away from the office.
Here are the major benefits of using task management software (like Asana):
- Automatically generate task reminders: once you have set a task the person assigned to receives regular reminders from the software. This means you won’t need to disrupt your work pattern or bombard colleagues with follow up messages.
- Improve collaboration by setting up subtasks: often one project passes through many departments, by setting subtasks you can linearly follow the process and identify any hold-ups in the chain.
- Boost efficiency by prioritizing tasks and setting time expectations: you can let teams know what tasks need doing right away by flagging tasks as high, medium or low priority. You can also set time targets for employees to aim for, which you can monitor and adjust load management from.
Boosting accessibility and teamwork is one of the best ways to streamline your operation in a year where remote working is likely to continue.
Take note of some of the task management software on the market and think about how best you can put them to use in your business.
But also consider where else you can streamline operations using the Internet of Things along with smaller improvements like fuel cards.