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How to Improve Production Efficiency at ACME Photo Company

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A Report By Duane Orris

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND

Any business in a service industry must look at their customer service and provide a good value to their customers. That value may be based on many things and will change depending upon the individual customer. {FIND STATISTICS TO SUPPORT}

One of the keys to success in a service business is to provide the customer with a positive all around experience. Customers who are happy with their experience will not only be return customers, but they will tell other people and increase your awareness in the community. {FIND STATISTICS TO SUPPORT}

Customers are no longer used to waiting for goods and services, so it is imperative to provide good customer service.

 

 

PROBLEM

Due to an increase in the number of events photographed per year, customer service has fallen at Acme Photo Company, as customers are not receiving their completed product (finished photographs) within the timeline they are given. There is typically a one-to two-week delay during the summer months. As a result, customers aren't as happy and referrals have dropped by 20 percent this year. The primary cause of the problem is a backlog of production (raw digital photographs that need to be edited to a finished state) as there is too much work for the editors to handle during the six-month peak season.

PURPOSE

The purpose of this report will be to research methods to increase production efficiency during the busiest months and reduce the amount of time that it takes for customers to receive their finished product in the timeline we set for them. This project will look at methods for improvement, including hiring an additional editor, outsourcing the additional editing jobs during the busy season, reviewing the current production process, and examining the current production timeline.

PROCEDURES

For this report, information will be gathered from primary sources, as well as secondary sources, to gather sufficient data to effectively compare viable options and changes to be implemented. Interviews will be conducted to gather industry information pertaining to the current market wage for photographic editors, as well as the current market price for outsource companies to edit images. Acme Photo Company's current timeline and production process will also be analyzed with the intent to see if viable alternatives or changes can be implemented for a more efficient production process.

FINDINGS

HIRING AN EMPLOYEE

Fixed Cost

When hiring an employee, whether as a part-time or as a full-time, the company will incur a fixed cost. This employee will have to be paid, regardless of the nature or amount of work that the employee can accomplish during his/her time on the clock. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median pay for a full-time employee is currently $14.62per hour (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). It takes our current editors approximately 16 hours to complete an event with 2,500 images photographed, to a finished state of 1,000 images delivered to the customer. Based on this, each event would cost approximately $233.92. Averages are used for this calculation because no two events have the same amount of images and each event can be a little different in its complexity to edit.

Hiring Procedure

To hire an employee, employment websites would be utilized to get qualified candidates. Once five or six qualified candidates emerged, interviews would be conducted to further refine the pool of candidates and select the individual who suits Acme Photo Company the best. From that point, approximately two weeks of training would be necessary to get the new hire familiar with the company's specific procedures and get him/her familiar with the desired editing outcome that Acme Photo Company desires.

Benefits

The benefits to having an additional in-house employee would be that tight control of the photographs can be maintained in terms both of the editing style applied to the images, and the timeline of the editing process. An additional benefit to having an employee on location would be having an additional person in the studio, in case of sickness or unexpected absences, which would leave the production work more likely to be accomplished. The additional employee could also be trained to serve other roles in times when the additional editing work is not needed.

UTILIZING AN OUTSOURCE COMPANY

Vital Edit

Variable Cost - Vital Edit offers a process by which Acme Photo Company would select how many and to what extent each image should be edited. The culling process (viewing all of the images and narrowing it down to which images will be edited to a finish state) costs $.06 per image. Finish editing (color correcting) costs $.24 per image (Vital Edit, 2017). Acme Photo Company has a typical event of 2,500 images captured, which are culled down to a finished state of 1,000 images delivered. Based on those averages, each event would cost $390 to edit.

Turnaround Time - Vital Edit states that the turnaround time for an event is 7 days (Vital Edit, 2017).

Quality and Implementation - Vital Edit states that they will work with each studio to get the desired final image look and offers a trial edit, in order to work out any problems or miscommunications on implementing their service. To begin using their service, Acme Photo Company must setup an account with Vital Edit and send in a trial event. To submit an event to Vital Edit, the images can be uploaded via their image submission portal or through their FTP connection. The images are then returned via an FTP connection (Vital Edit, 2017).

Lavalu

Variable Cost - Lavalu also offers a process by which Acme Photo Company would select how many and to what extent each image should be edited. The culling process (viewing all of the images and narrowing it down to which images will be edited to a finish state) costs $.07 per image. Finish editing (color correcting) costs $.26 per image (Lavalu, 2017). Acme Photo Company has a typical event of 2,500 images captured, which are culled down to a finished state of 1,000 images delivered. Based on those averages, each event would cost $435 to edit.

Turnaround Time - Lavalu states that their turnaround time is typically 5 days, but can be up to 7 days in the busiest times (Lavalu, 2017).

Quality and Implementation - Lavalu will work with Acme Photo Company to get the desired final image look and also offers a trial edit, in order to work out any problems or miscommunications on implementing their service. To begin using Lavalu, Acme Photo Company must setup an account with Lavalu and send in a trial event. To submit an event to Lavalu, the images can be uploaded via their client portal or through their FTP connection. The images are then returned via an FTP connection (Lavalu, 2017).

CHANGE PRODUCTION PROCEDURES

Current Production Process

The current process at Acme Photo Company entails two processes. The first is the categorizing stage, where the editor utilizes Adobe Lightroom to sort every image from the event and categorize the images based upon the type of event. As an example, a wedding would have the categories such as bride and groom portraits, ceremony and reception. After the images have been categorized, the editing process begins. Each image is looked at individually and the editor decides first, whether to keep the image as a final image, and second makes all color corrections necessary to finish the image.

Possible Changes

One of the inherent problems that can happen as part of the image editing process is that the editor will spend an additional minute or two editing an image, only to then decide that the image isn't worthy of being a final image. One change that could be implemented into the process would be to separate the culling stage (where the image is selected as a final image or not) out of the editing process. This would free the editor from having to make this decision and would focus his attention more selectively on the color correction process.

Benefits

The benefits of separating the culling process from the image editing process are small, but could be of great time savings. Both the culling process and the editing process are already done, but by separating the two, the editor can focus his/her attention better and will spend much less time overall. If the editor were to spend one minute editing an image, only to decide it isn't worthy of a final edit, he/she has wasted one minute. However, at even 100 times per event, that equals a savings of 100 minutes of productivity that has been gained. At a wage of $14.62 per hour, that is $21.93 saved on a single event. In addition to that, saving approximately 1.5 hours event over the course of the year, would save the editors 225 hours of editing time and would help reduce the current backlog during busy months.

CHANGE PRODUCTION TIMELINE

Current Timeline

The current timeline that the clients are given is two weeks from the date of their event. This timeline had been sufficient and had been maintained until the amount of events increased above 130 events per year.

Competitive Advantage or Disadvantage of a Timeline Change

The industry can vary quite widely when it comes to what is considered to be a normal turnaround time for the customer to receive their finished images back. As stated on WeddingPhotography411, "Give them at least 4 weeks before reaching out to them." (WeddingPhotography411, 2016). Having a turnaround time of two weeks is a pretty good timeline and Acme Photo Company has had good feedback from past customers regarding the turnaround time. To increase the turnaround time, could be a detriment in terms of customer expectations.

SUMMARY

The cost of hiring an employee, outsourcing to Vital Edit, and outsourcing to Lavalu is shown below, in Figure 1. Changing the production process is a simple procedure that would not entail any additional costs to implement and would likely save time in the long run. Changing the timeline could also be implemented, but may not be beneficial, based on customer feedback.

Professor Patton: Should this graphic NOT be here and instead referenced and placed in an appendix? I had a hard time understanding this portion of the directions..

CONCLUSIONS

Based on the findings, if Acme Photo Company were to use an outsource company, Vital Edit is the more cost effective solution. In comparison to Vital Edit, hiring an additional employee would cost $156.08 less, per event. In both hiring an outsource company, and hiring an employee, there is going to be a one or two-week period of training or procedural adjustment. Changing the production process, as well as the production timeline (turnaround time) will not add any additional cost to the company. Changing the production process by separating the culling process will make the overall process more efficient and reduce overall time, as well as save money.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Based on the information provided, I would recommend that Acme Photo Company hire an additional employee for editing. The company would save $156.08 per event, compared to outsourcing the events, and the employee could be beneficial to the company in other capacities as well. Given that there is a consistent backlog during the busy season, it would reduce backlog and keep customer satisfaction higher. It would also provide more production capacity, should the company continue to expand. In addition to hiring an employee, I would recommend that the company change the production process by separating the culling process from the editing process. This would save the company both time and money, and would decrease the production backlog during the busy season as well.    

References

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2015, March 25). May 2014 National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. Retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/naics5_541920.htm

Lavalu. (2017, February 19). Lavalu FAQ. Retrieved from Lavalu: http://www.mylavalu.com/layouts/faqs

Lavalu. (2017, February 19). Lavalu Services. Retrieved from Lavalu: http://www. (2017, February 19)mylavalu.com/layouts/services

Vital Edit. (2017, February 19). Vital Edit FAQ. Retrieved from Vital Edit: http://www.vitaledit.com/FAQ.aspx#Turnaround

Vital Edit. (2017, February 19). Vital Edit Services. Retrieved from Vital Edit: http://www.vitaledit.com/Services.aspx

WeddingPhotography411. (2016, March 19). When can I expect my wedding pictures back? Retrieved from WeddingPhotography411 : http://www.weddingphotography411.com/dont-rush-your-photographers-post-production/


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