“Working remotely” is the new buzzword nowadays. It’s a new concept for many businesses to have their staff working from home. But virtual assistants have been doing this for many years. I have been a virtual production manager for the past ….. years.
I have been asking myself the last couple of months “How is it possible that there’s a whole world of brilliant virtual personnel out there, and many companies still do not know they exist”?
Only now have some companies realised you do not need a production manager, HR, accountant, video editor, marketing manager and many more human assets to sit in an office to complete a project with professionalism and success. I only wish that my first employer (me fresh out of varsity) knew that before he pushed me into an office that killed my spirit and enthusiasm for anything production-related. Someone looking over my shoulder and expecting me to work effectively from 14:00-16:00 is the worst management trick to pull on a person like me. I often thought that “production management is not for me, maybe I wasted my time, maybe I am not good enough”, etc. I am sure many of us have felt like this at work.
Not everyone is made for remote working, especially in production, but if you get the balance right, managing production remotely can be as easy as any other remote position out there. My first VA client, and still my client a few years down the line, is a wonderful human who designs bespoke suits. At first, I thought it was impossible to create something as personal as clothing for someone when your production manager is not on site. I was stressed, slept little and read my email every 5 seconds. Eventually, I started to find my rhythm and understood my client’s pace and work ethic. I realised remote production management is my thing. You know – your “thing”, that thing that you love doing even over weekends. This is the job that I am most organized in and that takes me less time to complete than any other virtual position.
In short, production management is fun and can be made easy. Now that companies are taking note of virtual production, I realize that I am where I need and should be.
Here are some pointers if you are a production manager or a company owner thinking of managing production remotely.
How to maintain productivity
- Monitor – Remote monitoring through various software and tools to help with unit production operations.
My tip for monitoring is to stay on top of all new orders. Process new orders immediately. Issues can creep up on you in various stages of the production process, and you want to tackle them head-on. Do not let orders accumulate until there’s too much to do. This is where mistakes creep in. As all my processes and tools are loaded onto the cloud, my client can monitor the progress of every order in real-time.
- Collaborate – Standardize Operating l Procedures.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) can eliminate human error as everyone in the business is on the same page. SOP’s should consistently change to make the production process and human interaction more relevant and up to date.
See what works for your remote position and work SOP’s into your everyday operations. Create a Standard Digital SOP and record standard procedures rapidly, and is available for all personnel to view and understand. Examples of remote SOP’s are:
- Readiness checklists
- Roles and responsibilities
- Activity tracking and reporting (Bitrix24 is a great tool to use for this)
- Communication process and hierarchy (Bitrix24 is a great tool to use for this)
- Enable – This is probably one of the most important tools in virtual production.
Enable the rest of the production staff to understand working remotely. Train them on the various platforms and tools available to connect with the virtual world. Use platforms that are convenient, accessible, and easy to understand. The following tools are easy to understand and can make communication easy and effective:
- Slack (business communication platform)
- Trello (web-based Kanban-style list-making application)
- Dropbox (web-based file hosting service)
- Google Calendar (time-management and scheduling calendar service)
- LastPass (password Management Program)
- Zoom (conference calling for the whole team)
How to ensure that production keeps going while you are not there physically
Communication is probably the most important of my tips. Learn to be a good communicator in any position within a business. Nothing can dampen the employee spirit like no communication, or the lack of the correct communication.
Earlier on, during my desk job, this was probably one of the reasons I got so frustrated. When I needed to get approval for certain production tasks or money to pay for certain dry goods, top management either did not respond to my calls and emails, or they left some of the queries until it was too late to produce a product at the right time, at the right price. Everyone knew management lacked discipline and communication skills, but it still irked me so much that I could not do that job anymore. With a remote position, communication is even more important. Make it clear to your client from the beginning of production that you expect certain responses to make sure that the product gets produced and issues are straightened out in real-time.
- Customize your processes so that it is easy to hand over
Let’s be honest, anything can happen, and you will most definitely miss a few days of work at some point. You might even be lucky enough to go on vacation.
As a remote production manager, it will always be expected that you are available or easily accessible if new orders come in or issues occur. But you just want to take a break for a while? Well, make sure your processes are up to date and easy to understand for someone you will hand the production over to.
It is always a good idea to have a handover document in case the stand-in needs to go back and research or need to understand something. Make sure your handover document has all the relevant and up to date contact details of suppliers, buyers etc. on, also explain the production process in clear steps to follow.
Ensure past mistakes will not be made again
Remember to document mistakes/issues. For example, a client gained some weight and one suit was too tight around his belly. Because we make use of standard operating measurement forms, his new measurement was never updated. Luckily, he was fine with waiting for a new jacket, but it did cost us a couple of 100 dollars to fix the problem. Try to implement an Issue Tracking template early in the production process and share with your client regularly. Topics like issue type, issue status, action required and date created can be used to track your issues. There are even Issue Tracking templates for IT and Ops out there which accuracy with real-time plans. These increase collaboration with teams. They also improve efficiency with resources centralized in one location. Quickly resolve reported issues, gain visibility into issue patterns, and maintain auditable records without additional work.
- Use an instant messenger such as WhatsApp
I find that the simplest way to track past issues is through messages on WhatsApp. Remember to use hashtags in front of your issue this makes tracking easier.
Production is important
It should be managed in a way that makes your customer a market leader. Use the tools, software, people, support out there to make production easy, effective, accurate and relevant. Remember, good communication is key if you want Remote Production Management to work.
Most virtual assistants out there are familiar with the tools which make remote working possible. One characteristic of a virtual assistant is that they are very accessible, easy to train and open to new ideas. If you, as a company owner, use a platform that is new to the virtual production manager, give them a few days to get comfortable with it – it will not take long.
And if you are sitting with a product you want to produce, but you do not have office space for a production manager, you know where to look!