We’re going to take a short departure from our regular column on standards, to talk about techniques for managing your yard better, in the spirit of this issue on Operations.

Do you have a process flow that you need to follow, but find that there are a lot of moving parts?  Are there lots of different folks who need to have input to the process, and/or need to see the status at any given moment?  What’s some good tools to use for that?

There are a couple of tools that we use at McDonald Consulting to work with our clients and also to track our work internally.

One of them is Slack, which we use as an alternative to a text message or messenger service.  Slack lets you set up group chats, track threaded messages, private message someone, and generally see all the messages in one place.  If you’re coordinating with different groups, you can also set up areas, or channels in Slack, to post something there. Then, when everyone who’s subscribed to that channel logs on, it’ll be bolded, indicating an unread message.  If Sue reads the message, it won’t be bolded on her screen, but when Ray logs on, it will still be bolded on his.  So, it lets you get messages when it’s convenient for you and also alerts you to what needs attention.

Additionally, if someone sends you a private message or mentions you in a thread, you’ll get a number notification next to the icon.

Here is a screenshot of the work I’m doing with my web designer.  You can see we have channels, like “needs Mary input” or “website to do list”.  So, not only do we have a running list of what we’re working on, but we can go back in history and see what was done (and what wasn’t).

Another great tool is Trello (trello.com) which is set up more like a white board with post-it notes on it.  You can have a board, with cards, and the cards all have items. If you were setting something up to track your Health and Safety implementation, as an example, you’d want to keep track of

  • mandatory requirements
  • training status by employee or department
  • who’s committed to doing specific tasks

You also want everyone who’s involved in this (especially those with tasks assigned) to have access to the info in real time.  Enter Trello. Trello can track what you need, when it’s due, and also serve as a repository for ideas (like monthly training topics, or guest speakers, or optional requirements, or…)

Here’s what a Trello board might look like to capture that easily (and, this took me literally 6-7 mins to enter into Trello):

If you want to add something to an existing area, like “Mandatory” you simply type it in where it says “add a card”.  If you want to add in a new major topic, you’d instead click on “add a list”. If you wanted to use the tool for other areas, you’d click on “boards” and then “add a board”.  

I like these tools because I can get them on my desktop/laptop, my iPad, and my phone.  The info is easy to access and helpful in juggling multiple competing priorities. If you’d like to try it out, but get stuck someplace along the way, just email me at marymcd@suzanneb41.sg-host.com or call at 512-280-7175 and I’d be glad to help you out!

This article was published in Automotive Recycling magazine, the official industry publication of the Automotive Recyclers Association, www.a-r-a.org