Hybrid working will take time to shake out

Interesting article in The Guardian by Prof. Nicholas Bloom “Happier, more efficient: why working from home works”. Based on a number of research studies and interviews, both in the UK and USA, Bloom makes a number of assertions on which I will comment.

Hybrid working (a mixture of office and home working) will become the norm because “we are at our most creative when working face-to-face, meeting people, talking over lunch and coffee, or gathering in groups”…whilst “at home we tend to be more efficient in the daily tasks that make up working life”. I agree (see my recent blog 19/3/21).

Home based workers were 13% more efficient“. This average needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt. I have already blogged (28/8/20) and suggested that the level of efficiency gain will be affected by at least six different factors. So actual efficiency will vary by individual worker and sector. This focus on efficiency also tends to ignore the other benefits of home working, namely employee well-being and engagement.

The “classic 3-2 plan” of “Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in the office and Wednesday and Friday at home” is likely to become the norm. I disagree. Although “Google, Facebook and HSBC have already announced” this, they are likely to rethink it because it makes no sense. First, it would mean that their office are full for just three days a week, and empty for four – an extremely inefficient use of this expensive resource. Second, all the direct services the firm contracts out (security, cleaning, catering, and etc.) would be uneconomic to operate just three days a week. And third, all the indirect services (rail, bus, parking, off site catering, etc.) would also experience lumpy demand and become uneconomic to operate. In my view it is much more likely that employees would be split into two large groups A and B. Then A would work in the office Monday and Thursday, and B on Tuesday and Friday, with Wednesday being a ‘flex-day’. On this day sub-sets of A and B may be required to come into the office and/or individual employees or teams could chose to work on site.

Only half of all employees can work from home – typically university-educated people and professionals“. This is manifestly true. Moreover, it is the non-professionals who are likely to be most affected by automation, robotics and digital transformation. The economic and social implications of both these trends needs to be carefully considered.

Source: Bloom, N. (2021) “Happier, more efficient: why working from home works” The Guardian, 22March

Posted in Chap 04 Location and design, Chap 07 Capacity and demand, Chap 10 Workforce and technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hybrid working to become the norm?

I first blogged about remote working just over one year ago (6th March) and suggested that it might become the norm. Since then I have written other posts where this has been discussed in more detail. Now there is increasing evidence that I was partially right….

It seems many operators are considering “hybrid working” – that is to say a combination of working in the officee and working from home. Here are some examples:

  • British Airways – “will let staff split their working lives between the head office and home” and is considering selling its huge Waterside office complex near Heathrow.
  • Nationwide building society – “has indicated that it does not intend to force people to return to the office if they have been successfully able to work from home during the pandemic”
  • BP – “has told office-based staff they can spend two days a week working from home after lockdown restrictions ease”.
  • HSBC and Lloyds banks – are looking into split working arrangements.
  • Thales the defence manufacturer – has told most of its office staff that they can continue to work from home if they wish.

Source: various

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Micro restaurant chains – agile and innovative

A micro restaurant chain is an operator with between 3 and 19 units.  In the USA they are a successful and growing phenomenon for a number of reasons.  First, resilience – although not large, they can achieve some economies of scale, as well as being able to offset a fall in sales in one unit against sales in better performing units.  This has been especially important during the pandemic.  Second, agility – most micro chains are in a relatively tightly defined geographic area, this facilitates communication and their ability to change and modify their output.  Third, innovation – these smaller chains tend to be focused on niche food or service concepts that differentiate them from the larger international chains. The founders have had to be innovative in order to develop their concept and continue to innovate as they go along.  And finally, a strong organisational culture – their relatively small size ensures buy in to the culture.

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Don’t take a pill, take an app

The pandemic has accelerated the development of remote healthcare and of apps designed for patients to monitor their condition or self administer remedies.  The NHS has an Apps Library which provides links to apps in 17 different categories.  They are as follows (along with one example of what is provided):

  • Body areas – Patients receiving treatment to prevent blood clots can use the engage self-care app to self-test safely and conveniently. Using the engage app can reduce the need for regular clinic visits by monitoring INR (International Normalised Ratio).
  • Cancer – Miiskin is an app that tracks moles and skin using side by side photo images.
  • Child health – Baby Buddy provides advice on caring for babies.
  • Covid – Corona-Help.UK is a self-reporting tool that aims to improve the understanding and management of the virus.
  • Dental – Brush DJ is designed to improve oral hygiene by providing music to assure teeth are brushed for the right amount of time.
  • Diabetes – ACR Digital Urinalysis lets patients test a sample of their urine for albumin and creatinine.
  • First Aid – First Aid by British Red Cross.
  • Healthy Living – EXi is a personalised 12 week exercise programme.
  • Learning Disabilities – MyChoicePad enables users to communicate feelings, choices,  and needs.
  • Memory and communication – My House of Memories app lets dementia patients and their carers explore objects from the past and share memories together.
  • Mental health – the eQuoo app uses adventure games designed by psychologists to help people increase their emotional fitness and teach them new psychological skills.
  • NHS Services – Evergreen Life manages health, fitness and wellbeing, by enabling the tracking lifestyle goals, booking of  GP appointments, ordering of repeat medication, and viewing medical records.
  • Online Community – Health Unlocked facilitates networking with 700 online communities focused on health and wellbeing topics including cancer, thyroid disease, running and weight loss. It has over 4 million monthly users.
  • Pregnancy and baby – the GDm-Health app is part of a system that helps clinicians manage diabetes in pregnancy.
  • Respiratory – the Digital Health Passport app is designed to help young people with asthma take control of their condition by creating asthma action plans, tracking symptoms and accessing NHS support.
  • Sleep – A GP can prescribe Sleepstation, which is a 6-week online course for people who struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. It gives patients access to a team of sleep experts who will offer helpful advice and support throughout.
  • Social Care – Talk Around It Home is a speech and language therapy app for anyone with word finding difficulties. It can be used to treat conditions such as aphasia, anomia, stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s and autism.
Posted in Chap 04 Location and design, Sector: Public Services & Charities | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Shift from high touch to high tech post-Covid

Despite the efficacy of vaccines, it seems very likely that post-Covid consumers will continue to be hygiene conscious and practice social distancing in public spaces.  This means that operators are likely to adopt technologies that reduce personal contact between customers and employees, and shift towards high-tech self-service solutions.  These will include:

  • contactless payment methods.  Contactless payment by debit or credit cards often have an upper limit on the amount of any transaction.  So operators will start to encourage customers to use their own “tap and go” platforms or mobile digital wallets.
  • self-service kiosks.  In a number of settings consumers need to check-in (hotels, airports, etc.).  Already kiosks are in use in some operations, but these will become ubiquitous and enhanced.  Enhancements will include eliminating the need to touch the screen by using scanning technology, infrared temperature readers to monitor the health of the consumer, and face recognition technologies.
  • apps.  These will be enhanced so that they facilitate every aspect of the customer journey.  Before arriving at the operation customers will be informed of whatever they need to know and the operator will know of the imminent arrival of the customer.  On arrival, the customer will be recognised and provide with the information they need to navigate their way through the operation.  It will also integrate with any operational technology to enable access to private spaces (hotel rooms, store changing rooms, and so on).  Apps will also enable the closure of the interaction, and post-departure check on customer satisfaction levels.
  • drones.  The pandemic will accelerate the use of drones for last mile delivery of small parcels.  The development of what3words has also made the delivery point much more precise.
Posted in Chap 01 Introduction, Sector: Entertainment & Sport, Sector: Hospitality & Tourism, Sector: Retail, Sector: Transportation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Remote sensing in agriculture

We have blogged before about remote sensing, but never with regards monitoring the health and performance of farm animals.  However in an increasingly digital world, farmers too have the opportunity to use this technology.  Ceres Tag, based in Brisbane, manufactures solar-powered smart ear tag monitors that provide “biosecurity, health, welfare, performance and traceability” data.  Linked to GPS, it also assists in alerting farmers to any stock that have broken out of their pasture or have been stolen.  The tag is able to monitor a number of health and fitness indicators, such as temperature and rumination levels, so that stock can be moved to fresh pasture when need be, and even be selected for breeding purposes based on past performance.

Moocall, an Irish company, also manufactures sensors that assist with cattle breeding and calving, as this video explains.


Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56195288

Posted in Chap 03 Processes and life cycles, Sector: Agriculture & Food | Tagged | Leave a comment

Supply chain developments

One of the problems with  this blog (and indeed chapters in a text book) is that it is not always easy to get an holistic view of operations, or digest how different aspects of operations fit together.  And as I have explained on more than one occasion, this concept of “fit” is essential, because explicitly, or implicitly, successful operators are those that have fitted together all aspects of their operation in the “best” possible way.

That’s why I am pleased to see that Deloitte Insights have adopted an approach to help fit concepts together by grouping articles into “collections” and providing an overview of how each article relates to the other.  For instance it recently created a collection entitled The Future Movement of Goods.  This groups together three articles each written within the last year that look at different aspects of contemporary supply chains, from a variety of perspectives.  The first article identifies three major trends in supply chain development – “connected community, the ability to collaborate and connect with partners to see across the network; holistic decision-making, the ability to harness and harmonize traditional and new data to continuously learn and predict; and intelligent automation, the ability to utilize the right human or machine for the task at hand and automate digital processes”.  The second article reports on a survey of 182 managers to identify the ways in which these three trends are actually being adopted.  The final one focuses on how digitalisation is facilitating these trends.

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“Resource cleansheeting”

You have probably never heard of this term, but it is going to become increasingly important and be adopted by any operator that has set itself carbon neutral targets.  Right now there is a challenge incorporating carbon-reduction targets into day-to-day operations and new product development, as this McKinsey article explains.  First operators set emissions targets at corporate level and monitor these through a specific team of experts, typically unconnected with operations.  And second the methodologies needed to monitor and measure emissions are not integrated with the common methodologies used to monitor operational performance, such as cost engineering.

The solution is to adopt the concept of “resource cleansheeting“.   In essence, this adopts a significantly more granular approach to measuring emissions that can be mapped alongside the cost engineering of a product’s value stream.  It “follows the same bottom-up analysis workflow for emissions, aggregating all relevant emission factors of the product or service along the value stream. That means gathering data on the full set of emissions corresponding to direct costs, including for upstream activities for purchased goods and services, energy consumption, transportation, direct manufacturing labor, equipment, and tooling. It also means gathering data on the emissions associated with all the indirect costs embedded in the product, such as for overhead, shared facilities, waste from operations, and even employee commuting”.


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Developing a winning business model in an emerging sector

Insightful article from Arthur D. Little into how alternative business models are emerging in the electric vehicle charging sector.  It identifies different aspects of the sector and forecasts how much revenue is likely to be generated from each.  It then goes on to explore the alternative business models that have emerged:

  • “hardware providers”  (such as ABB) – will generate one off revenues from the manufacture and sale of EV equipment
  • “software-based operators” (such as has-to-be) – generate recurring revenues from EV services without owning any physical assets
  • “full service providers” (such as EVBox) – manufacture their own hardware and deploy it
  • “asset owners” (such as IONITY) – own physical infrastructure and lease it to others to operate.
  • “fully integrated players” (such as Shell) – own and operate every aspect of EV provision.

The article then goes on to discuss which of these business models is likely to be successful in the short term and long term and the reasons for this.

Posted in Chap 12 Operations strategy, Sector: Energy & Utilities, Sector: Transportation | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How cinemas are still generating revenue…

… despite being closed during the pandemic.  In South Korea one chain is renting out its space to gamers who can plug in their kit and play their game on the big screen with full-on sound.  Although the rental charge is significantly less than the revenue from a Covid-safe screening of a film, it does mean revenue can be generated in off peak periods. In the USA a chain is hiring out it screens for small groups to have private screenings of films.

Cinema operators are also continuing to operate their food and snack businesses, either as takeaways or even offering home delivery service too.

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55994767

Posted in Chap 07 Capacity and demand, Sector: Entertainment & Sport | Tagged , | Leave a comment