Line functions are activities that have a direct impact on the ability of a business to deliver goods and services to customers in an efficient and timely manner. Should any factor within the company structure interfere with a function of this type, the end result is normally a loss of revenue over the short term, and possibly the loss of a customer or customers permanently. For this reason, most businesses strive to structure their actions so that each line function within the organization is capable of continuing to be productive, even when unanticipated situations threaten to disrupt that operation.
In order to design an efficient line function, an organization must first identify its goals, as well as define its corporate culture. For example, if the goal of the organization is to deliver goods to customers a full twenty-four hours before any of its competitors are able to, decisions must be made about how to go about reaching that goal. This leads to the cultivation of specific attitudes among the employees who will engage in the delivery process, as well as reworking the existing delivery strategy so that efficient delivery is consistent. Only when the right goals, the right employees, and the right process is put into place can the line function be fully complete and efficient.
When creating a line function, employers often pay close attention to different factors that could threaten the efficiency of that process. In response to those factors, it is not unusual for backup strategies, sometimes referred to as contingency plans, to be put into place. For example, if a significant number of employees are out sick at one time, other employees are trained to step in and handle the tasks necessary to keep the line function active and production totals within standards.
The exact structure of a line function will vary from one type of business to the next. What works very well in one setting and produces results that are considered excellent may be completely inappropriate for another type of business. While it is possible to learn from the structure of line functions used within similar companies, each company must take the time to create functions that speak to the specific aims of that business.
Protecting the line function from failure is key to the success of any business enterprise. When any factor threatens to slow or stop that function, the future of the company is placed into jeopardy. This often comes in the form of situations and events that directly impact the relationship between the company and its customers. At best, the line function failure causes customers to lose confidence in the quality of the relationship. At worst, it means the loss of customers to the competition. Often, the task of recovering a lost customer can take a great deal of time and resources, with no guarantees that the relationship can ever fully recover.