As a young marketer as was responsible for a beer brand. Unlike the beers you are familiar with, this was a sorghum-based beer that was drank principally by the indigenous African people. (It was sour and it was looks a bit like dirty dish water and had a relatively poor ‘head’ of foam if at all.)
It was distributed in milk-cartons rather than glass bottles for a simple reason – the beer was still fermenting after being packed (it only had a shelf life of about 3-5 days depending on weather.) Having a (cheaper) carton-based container, also allowed us to leave a tiny pinprick in the top seal that allowed the pressure from the fermenting gases to be released, which of course would have been more difficult and expensive to achieve in an air-tight glass container.
The original packaging was a CONICAL shape, where the top was wider than the bottom. We could fit 15 containers per crate. Later we switched to the familiar TETRAPAK product which is the brick-shaped (rectangular) container as is commonly used today.
This one change enable us to fit 16 containers per crate. Being able to increase crate capacity from 15Litres to 16 Litres may seem like a small change, but it had massive financial benefits. (I can’t recall the exact figures any more, but it was certainly hundreds of thousands per year.)
You could still fit the same number of crates in a truck – but you could carry more beer. It still took the same amount of labour to load the truck, but productivity had increased by 6%.
To be clear, I wasn’t the bright spark who came up with that idea; but it was a lesson I learned young: the little things count.
Virgin has just discovered something along the same lines, and apparently they will save millions with a simple re-design of the food tray in Economy class.
A recent story about a teenager who did some research about font types and sizes that could save the US Government $400m is another case in point. (The actual facts are somewhat in dispute, because measuring font size is quite difficult. But the IDEA remains valid.)
Along the same lines, I wrote recently about the enormous impact of taking a 3% settlement discount on your payment terms.
All of these examples illustrate the same principle: little things make a big difference.
It is easier to see the impact with something like packaging and it is certainly easy to quantify when something physical is redesigned.
But what if …
You redesigned your meetings to start at 10 minutes after the hour and finish (strictly) five minutes before?
You did your staff scheduling in 15 minutes increments instead of 30 minutes?
You woke up 15 minutes earlier everyday? Or searched for a quicker route to work or caught the express bus instead of the regular?
You spent 10 minutes a day less on Facebook?
What if you wrote one page a week of that novel you always meant to write?
How much will your life change IF….