Canadian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) spend up to 100 per cent more time than they realize completing various simple business processes such as courier processing. The findings, from a proprietary research study by UPS Canada, also revealed that 74 per cent of SMEs surveyed would consider changing their process if it meant that it optimized person-hours for use in revenue and value-generating activity.
The study, conducted by The Strategic Counsel, asked SME decision-makers to analyze their operation and estimate the time their business spent completing various tasks related to the overall courier function. On average, Canadian SMEs underestimated the time taken to complete this function by half: when details of the courier tasks were explained, the average amount of time spent jumped from five to 10 hours per week.
“This research suggests there are still processes within an SME environment that are either not well understood or questioned, or have not been fully examined,” said UPS Canada Director of E-Commerce Wayne Bosch.
“This finding is made more significant when you consider SMEs can use free, automated solutions to significantly reduce the amount of time spent on the courier process.”
“These results speak to a larger trend in the Canadian SME market by showing how time has become a key competitive advantage,” said Professor John Gordon, Emeritus Professor of Operations Management and Technology, Queen’s University School of Business. “Twenty years ago, SMEs focused on reducing costs, then the focus shifted to improvements in quality, and now the key competitive factor is responsiveness. The faster an SME can deliver its solution to a client, the more successful that SME will be. By understanding how time is spent, and how technology is used within an operation to optimize responsiveness, SMEs can use every person-hour to its fullest advantage, thereby creating value.”
To address the challenges of running an SME operation, UPS Canada has developed a variety of free, easy-to-use, automated courier shipping solutions. These customizable applications help reduce the amount of time spent processing courier shipments by integrating an existing customer database into the courier process; as a result, courier information can be linked to customer service, accounts payable/receivable, sales and other company data. Results are lower cost and increased quality and customer satisfaction.
“Our shipping process used to be completely manual – from filling out waybills by hand, to calling in to customer service to track a package,” says Sam Azad, Lush Canada’s Web Development Manager. “Since implementing the automated solution, tracking time has been reduced by up to 90 per cent and overall mail order labour hours have been reduced by 30 per cent, allowing Lush employees to handle more orders in less time.”
The UPS survey also asked SMEs to consider which features would be most beneficial to their operation. The results determined that:
– 91 per cent indicated electronic signatures were beneficial – 77 per cent indicated automated commercial invoices were beneficial – 68 per cent indicated customized tracking numbers were beneficial – 59 per cent indicated they were interested in adopting free automated courier solutions to help save time and money
The survey was conducted between April 22 and May 1, 2002 and drew 150 responses from a random sample of key influencers from small and medium businesses (companies that employ between 1 and 49 full-time employees) that were drawn from Dun & Bradstreet and UPS Canada’s databases. Results are considered accurate within (+/-) 8.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.