Boriana Valentinova

productivity and efficiency

Increase productivity by optimising non-core processes

Increasing productivity is about doing more with the same resource. It is actually a very one-sided improvement, as you can only change one part of the equation. Technological advances can increase productivity in some industries as processes can be digitised. However, in others, like construction, education and health, accommodation and restaurants, and business services, productivity increase is limited as those are labour heavy. 

Still, you can improve. The important part is to identify which activities can be optimised and what advantages these optimisations will bring while avoiding tying up capital and risking potential chaos in processes and low-quality deliveries.

So, focus your efforts on optimising activities and tasks that are transactional and take away a lot of employees’ time. Those are usually non-core activities.


In services, a way to increase productivity is to improve data management and reporting:

  • Uploading and downloading data is typical if you work with traditional IT systems and combine structured data with unstructured marketing insights. Automate all the data flow crossing systems, databases, analysis and reporting.
  • Opening and saving email attachments are very common for finance and accounting processes and demand planning, order processing and working in product design.

Use tools like Zapier, Blueprism, and Uipath. For more complex process flows and mining, check Celonis. These solutions are relatively straightforward to implement. Ideally, select one pilot area where you will quickly see results (for example, data download for reporting). These tools can help you streamline your business, digitalise, significantly increase productivity and decrease cycle times.  


In manufacturing, productivity has increased by manifolds substituting manual operations with CNC machines and barcodes. Still, there is room for improvement:

  • Automatic stock replenishment: we tend to tie up a significant amount of capital in inventories, which we could invest elsewhere. Having or not having the proper inventory management can lead to product unavailability and a drop in sales.
  • Purchase orders: from creating the purchase order to filing the order for reporting, the whole process is repetitive and purely transactional. It is frequently managed manually, and its digitisation requires reliable input from other areas.
  • Assembling: this tends to be labour heavy. Still, there is room for improvement for an increase in productivity. One way to achieve that is by using kitting (picking and delivering all required components at once) to the assembly point. Another is by implementing Kanban systems.

As a manufacturing company, you are probably already using stock replenishment and demand management programs, which range from complex ones like SAP to Netsuite or Anaplan. But if you are a smaller business, you can increase your productivity and efficiency with integrated apps on Shopify for inventory management and order shipping. 

Kanban inventory management is the best pull system and can be manual, electronic or a combination of both. 

Increasing productivity in the entire business process is tricky, often even impossible. And you can get the best ROIs and quick wins if you focus on improving your non-core process – the gaps between systems, the silo way of working and non-core processes. 

List of tasks to automate in any industry

To finish, here is a list of everyday tasks and simple processes where I look to increase productivity, either by digitalisation or the application of lean tools when I carry out transformational business projects:

  • Logging into web/enterprise applications
  • Moving files and folders
  • Copying and pasting data between programs or software
  • Filling in forms
  • Reading and writing to databases
  • Extracting & classifying data from almost any data source
  • Language Translation
  • Scraping data from the web or a user interface
  • Managing and Moving documents between programs or folders
  • Collecting statistics, i.e. social media and including in other reporting
  • Sensor-based tracking and alerts
  • Database & System querying and updating
  • Making Calculations (by using excel)
  • Verifying availability or scheduling
  • Customer feedback collection and processing
  • Material moving on shopfloors
  • Repetitive movements operators do when carrying out activities
  • Manual tasks that cause poor quality or high variability in the outcome
  • Multiple controls 
  • Waiting for approval, help or authorisation from supervisors
  • KPIs calculations