Systems Integration as a means to cost reduction

System integration in an organisation refers to a process whereby two or more separate systems are brought together for the purpose of pooling the value in the separate systems into one main system. A key component of process consolidation within any organisation is the utilisation of IT as a means to achieve this end. As such, system integration as a means to cost reduction offers organisations the opportunity to adopt and implement lean principles with the attendant benefits. The implementation of lean techniques requires an adherence to stated methods to facilitate the elimination of wastage in the production of goods and services. In summary, the lean philosophy seeks to optimise the speed of good and service production, through the elimination of waste.

While analysing some of the traditional sources of waste in organisational activities, things like overproduction, inventory, underutilised ideas, transmission of information and ideas, transportation of people and material, time wastage and over-processing stand out. The fact is that companies can eliminate a significant portion of waste through the utilisation of IT to consolidate processes within their organisation.

Adopting lean principles calls for the identification of all of the steps in the company value stream for each product family for the purpose of the eliminating the steps that do not create any value. In other words, this step calls for the elimination of redundant steps in the process flow. This is exactly what the utilisation of IT to consolidate processes offers a company. For instance, the adoption of a central cloud system across a large organisation with several facilities could increase efficiencies in that company. Such a company would drastically reduce the redundancies that used to exist in the different facilities, eliminate the instances of hardware and software purchase, maintenance and upgrade, modernise quality assurances processes and identify further opportunities for improvement.

Perhaps, from the company’s point of view, and from the perspective of lean process implementation, the most important factor is?the effect it has?on the bottom line.’reducing the number of hardware, eliminating the need for maintaining and upgrading hardware, removing the necessity for software purchase and upgrade across facilities also contributes to a significant reduction in operational costs.?This reduction in the cost of operations leads to a corresponding increase in the profit margin of the company.

Applying system integration as a means to cost reduction can also lead to the reduction in the number of people needed to operate the previous systems that have been integrated into one primary unit. Usually, companies must hire people with specialised knowledge to operate and maintain the various systems. Such employees must also receive special training and frequent ongoing education to constantly stay informed of the latest trends in process management. With the integration of the system, the number of people needed to maintain the central system will be significantly reduced, also improving the security of information and other company trade secrets.

Based on an analysis of the specific needs that exist in a particular company environment, a system integration method that is peculiar to the needs of that organisation will be worked out. Some companies may find it more cost-effective to use the services of independent cloud service providers. Others with more resources and facilities may decide to set up their own cloud service systems. Often, private cloud service system capabilities far exceed the requirements of the initiating company, meaning that they could decide to “sell” the extra “space” on their cloud network to other interested parties.

A company that fully applies the lean principles towards the integration of its systems will be able to take on additional tasks as a result of the system consolidation. This leads to an increase in performance, and more efficiency due to the seamless syncing of information in a timely and uniform manner.

Companies have to combine a top-down and a bottom-up approach towards their system integration methods. A top-down approach simply utilises the overall system structure that is already in place as a starting point, or as a foundation. The bottom-up approach seeks to design new systems for integration into the system. Other methods of system integration include the vertical, star and horizontal integration methods. In the horizontal method, a specified subsystem is used as an interface for communication between other subsystems. For the star system integration method, the subsystems are connected to the system in a manner that resembles the depiction of a star; hence, the name. Vertical integration refers to the method of the integration of subsystems based on an analysis of their functionality.

The key to successful system integration for the purpose of cost reduction is to take a manual approach towards identifying the various applicable lean principles, with respect to the system integration process. For instance, when value has been specified, it becomes easier to identify value streams. The other process of removing unnecessary or redundant steps will be easier to follow when the whole project is viewed from the whole, rather than’the part. Creating an integrated system needs some?patience?in order to work out kinks and achieve the desired perfect value that creates no waste.

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How Ventura Bus Lines cleaned up its Act

Melbourne?s Ventura Bus Lines grew from a single bus in 1924 to a mega 308-vehicle fleet by the start of 2014. The family-owned provider has always been community centric; when climate-change became an issue it took quick and urgent action. As a result it now stands head and shoulders above many others. Let’s take a closer look at some of its decisions that made the difference.

The Important Things to Focus On

Ethanol Buses ? Ventura is the only Australian company that uses ethanol power produced from sugar cane for experimental public transport. It compares emissions within its fleet, and knows that these produce significantly less CO2 while also creating jobs for locals.

Electric Buses ? The company has been operating electric buses since 2009. These carry 42 seated among a total 68 passengers. The ride is smooth thanks to twin battery banks kept charged by braking and forward momentum. When required, a two-litre VW engine kicks in automatically.

Ongoing Driver Training ? Ventura provides regular retraining sessions emphasising safe, environmentally-friending operations. Drivers are able to see their fuel consumption and carbon emissions online and experiment with ways to improve these.

Bus U-Turns ? The capacity to measure throughput convinced the company to abandon the principle that buses don’t do U-Turns for safety?s sake. Road re-engineering made this possible in a busy downtown street. This reduced emissions equivalent to 4,000 cars and reduced vehicle downtime for servicing.

Increased Business – These initiatives allowed Ventura Bus Lines to improve its service as customers experience it. This led to an uptake in patronage and a corresponding downturn in the number of passenger car hours. The pleasure of travelling green no doubt contributed to this.

How Measuring Made the Difference

Ventura Bus Lines is big business. Its 308 buses operate out of 5 depots, cover 31% of the metropole, and transport close to 70,000 passengers on average daily which is no minor task. The ability to track, measure and analyse carbon emissions throughout the area has earned it compliance with National Greenhouse Energy Reporting Threshold 1 legislation.

It also uses the data to re-engineer bus routes to further reduce fuel consumption, energy consumption and operating costs. It’s amazing how measuring is affecting its bottom line, and the health of the Melbourne community at large.

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What is work force management?

For organisations to ensure they provide the right service.  In order to do they need to assign the right employees with the right skills to the right job at the right time to meet demand.

Workforce Management Background

Workforce management (WFM) is a strategy used by companies to increase their efficiency and performance. It entails all activities aimed at maintaining a steady output, such as human resource management, forecasting, field service management, budgeting, scheduling, performance and training management, analytics, recruitment and data collection.

Workforce management utilizes a unique set of performance enhancing tools and software to bolster corporate management, workers, and other categories of managers and supervisors in the manufacturing team, distribution, transportation, and retail operators. This is sometimes called HRM systems, or part of ERP systems, or workforce asset management.

Unlike the conventional outlay that only needed staff scheduling to improve time management, workforce management is now all-inclusive and demand-oriented to optimize staff scheduling. Apart from focusing on demand-orientation and optimization, workforce management also incorporates:

  • Estimating the workload and resource utilisation
  • Job scheduling
  • Management of working times and accounts
  • Monitoring the process of workforce management

Each task should be clearly defined and performed efficiently based on set engineering standards and methods of optimizing each task as much as possible. Out of this framework and demand based forecasts, workers are scheduled and given tasks, performance measured, give feedback, and incentives computed and paid.

Workforce management is an entire scheme aimed at building the capacity of workers, increase productivity and client relations, and where possible reduce labour costs.

What is Mobile Workforce Management (MWM)

Mobile workforce management (MWM) is a software-based service used to oversee employees outside of the institution?s premises; MWM sometimes refers to the field teams. Mobile workforce management encompasses all activities done to monitor and schedule the field workforce.

The entire process includes procurement, management and using mobile devices, applications and computer software. Related support services like tracking, logging, dispatch, productivity management, and other types of communication are also to make it efficient.

Companies do not have the same needs and MWM firms need to fine-tune their software and devices to sufficiently bridge this gap. Some providers are suited only to a specific type of company because of specialization, like managing the electric grid. This experience makes the MWM company suited to provide applications that are relevant to the company for them to continue operating smoothly and efficiently.

With the increase in mobile devices, applications, secured wireless networks and virtual desktop, there comes a stream of opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) and other ventures. Nevertheless, a mobile workforce needs better controls, security and support, as well as a functioning mobile workforce management strategy.

MMS (managed mobility services) is often used interchangeably with MWM, but they should not be confused. MWM is related to software and applications used by mobile and computer devices to manage on-field work while MMS focuses on enterprises, and is like a way of keeping in touch with the company, other employees, and linking the mobile while at work to servers and the database.

Benefits of Mobile Workforce Management

MWM allows the utilization of technology to drive productivity. Here are the top five advantages of MWM..

  1. Customer focused. The customer is the backbone of any business. The team needs to keep in touch with up-to-date information about every interaction. In the end, better client relation makes sure that the customer is always happy.
  2. Information has the power to build or destroy. A cloud-based system is easier to manage and can help with collection of data which is used to make business decisions. This can help cut costs, increase the workforce support, and identify areas where polishing needs to be done.
  3. Improved efficiency. Mobile workforce management is majorly used in taskforce allocation. If the company adopts a cloud-based work force management system, allocation is done automatically saving a lot of time.
  4. Increased revenue. Each business seeks to maximize the profit. With cloud-based mobile workforce management some operations like task management, data analysis, customer communication, reporting, and performance monitoring can be automated. This reduces the costs incurred for multiple applications and saves time.
  5. Ease of communication. Communication is vital. Constant communication with customers drives sales rates and everyone loves that. Quick communication will help customers solve their problems faster and get instant feedback.

Additional WFM benefits

 Other WFM benefits are:

  • Operations are made efficient as all complex processes are automated.
  • Employers learn more about worker engagement, productivity and attendance, allowing them to modify training, coaching and processes aimed at streamlining performance.
  • Automation and easy manipulation of data to improve HR, productivity and slash administrative costs.
  • It increases employee productivity by reducing absenteeism and late arrivals.
  • Boosts the morale of employees by encouraging transparency and facilitating manager-employee communication.
  • WFM analyzes market and schedule requirements to pick the right employee with the best set of skills for a certain task.

Companies which embrace workforce management and mobile workforce management have a higher operational efficiency. They have lower operational costs and limit manual work as much as possible

Energy Cooperation Mechanisms in the EU

While the original mission of the European Union was to bring countries together to prevent future wars, this has spun out into a variety of other cooperative mechanisms its founders may never have dreamed of. Take energy for example, where the European Energy Directive puts energy cooperation mechanisms in place to help member states achieve the collective goal.

This inter-connectivity is essential because countries have different opportunities. For example, some may easily meet their renewable targets with an abundance of suitable rivers, while others may have a more regular supply of sunshine. To capitalise on these opportunities the EU created an internal energy market to make it easier for countries to work together and achieve their goals in cost-effective ways. The three major mechanisms are

  • Joint Projects
  • Statistical Transfers
  • Joint Support Schemes

Joint Projects

The simplest form is where two member states co-fund a power generation, heating or cooling scheme and share the benefits. This could be anything from a hydro project on their common border to co-developing bio-fuel technology. They do not necessarily share the benefits, but they do share the renewable energy credits that flow from it.

An EU country may also enter into a joint project with a non-EU nation, and claim a portion of the credit, provided the project generates electricity and this physically flows into the union.

Statistical Transfers

A statistical transfer occurs when one member state has an abundance of renewable energy opportunities such that it can readily meet its targets, and has surplus credits it wishes to exchange for cash. It ?sells? these through the EU accounting system to a country willing to pay for the assistance.

This aspect of the cooperative mechanism provides an incentive for member states to exceed their targets. It also controls costs, because the receiver has the opportunity to avoid more expensive capital outlays.

Joint Support Schemes

In the case of joint support schemes, two or more member countries combine efforts to encourage renewable energy / heating / cooling systems in their respective territories. This concept is not yet fully explored. It might for example include common feed-in tariffs / premiums or common certificate trading and quota systems.

Conclusion

A common thread runs through these three cooperative mechanisms and there are close interlinks. The question in ecoVaro?s mind is the extent to which the system will evolve from statistical support systems, towards full open engagement.

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