Fixing the Leaks: Patching Little Problems Can Make a Big Difference to Your Company

According to the EPA, 1 trillion gallons of water are lost every year due to household leaks; that’s enough water to supply over 11 million homes for an entire year (EPA 2020). Apart from (hopefully) infrequent plumbing disasters, most of this lost water is caused by small, almost imperceptible leaks, like a dripping faucet or a broken sprinkler system. What may seem like a small problem, if it gets noticed at all, can lead to huge increases in cost over time.
You may be facing a similar situation in your business. Does your organization have inefficiencies, areas of waste, or other problems that have persisted for too long? Are there projects that need your attention but always get pushed aside by the latest crisis? Too many of us are distracted by short term issues and we neglect those underlying problems, the ones that don’t seem urgent but actually decrease productivity and profits over time. Let’s talk about a few ways you can identify these inefficiencies and avoid wasted time, energy, and resources.

Tighten Up Procedure

Think about the tasks your company does only once or twice a year, essential but infrequent functions like supply inventories, budget planning, and audits. You might also go through seasonal changes in services or supply availability that require changes to equipment and procedures. When these events happen, are your people ready to adapt, or is there time lost due to relearning what was done before? Having well-defined processes for things like conducting inventory can compensate for personnel changes, forgetfulness, and other problems that cost a tremendous amount of time. If you’ve just gone through one of these events or seasonal changes, take the time to sit down with your team, review how it went, and put records in place to ensure smoother transitions next time around. “We’ll deal with it next year” is a recipe for repeating the same problems over and over and recreating waste.

Delegate Properly

One reason you may not have time for the detail work is that you are not properly delegating. There are many reasons why we sometimes hesitate to share the work. Perhaps you believe your employees are already too busy, or maybe you’re worried they won’t do the job as well as you can. Make sure you are leaning on the team and taking advantage of the skills and capabilities that caused you to hire them in the first place. A little more time in your day means more attention for things left on the back burner.

Put in “Sensors”

Facing a similar water loss problem to the United States, water companies in England are seeking technological solutions to fix leaks. Over 100,000 sensors with an accuracy rate of about 90% are rolling out across the country. Accelerometers in the sensors, like the ones that detect movement in your cell phone, measure vibrations in pipes that could indicate leakages. Better identification of leak location enables them to address problems more precisely, minimizing employee time searching for leaks and tearing up long stretches of road or sidewalk (Baraniuk, 2020).
In our businesses, proper controls, data management, and other procedures can act like “sensors” that help us detect small problems early. Think about where and how you can implement these things in your company. For example, maybe one of your managers deals with a lot of employee turnover and behavioral issues; you could implement a weekly check-in meeting where you discuss how new employees are doing, identify potential problems, and develop solutions together. If budgeting season is always difficult, think about the financial processes that lead up to budgeting, and how you can improve the intermittent record keeping and reporting that eventually informs a budget.
Remember that small, conscientious adjustments like these will translate to less stress and higher profits in the future. The crew at NiteHawk Sweepers wishes you the best as work through these challenges and improve your business.

Works Cited

Baraniuk, Chris. (18 Aug 2020). Tracking down three billion liters of lost water. BBC News. Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/business-53274914.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (2020). Fix a leak week: Leaks can run, but they can’t hide. Available at https://www.epa.gov/watersense/fix-leak-week

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