Planet Lean, Inspiration & Where Kaizen really matters (#27)

Today’s subject: Where we can really do some good

Planet Lean recently ran this article asking 5 lean practitioners where their inspiration to fight the good fight is drawn from. This got me thinking and I concluded that mine comes from seeing glaring opportunities every day, hence the café picture above.

Perhaps it’s a function of getting older but I find that the number of things of importance to me rapidly declines as the months roll by, and so I found myself in the café of a large UK department store reflecting on the coffee & cake queue I’d just been a part of. As it happens, upon entering, my wife had sniffed the air, sized up the queue and concluded that her best plan was to bolt for a table. 

Before we get to the meat of this blog, a word of warning in keeping with my opening statement about "things of importance", the next 300 words are of little consequence excepting the conclusion they drew me too. If you’re short of time skip to the last 100 or so words, although you’d kind of miss the point.

Back to the cafe queue I spent 11 minutes occupying. The numbers in the picture above aid me in telling the tale. 

(1) People join the queue here

(2) they get to this point to choose a delicious panini...

(3) ...from the range in large panini rack (crucially, these all need heating up)

They clutch their cold panini for another 5 minutes until:

(4) they reach the cashier (we'll call her "C") who completes the transaction &

(5) calls her kitchen associate ("K") (6) who comes walking (7) to meet her at

(8) where the cold panini is handed over, "K" then takes it back to

(9) where the ovens are sited to allow the warming magic to happen, meanwhile "C" at

(10) gives the shopper a numbered block (visual signal) to place on their table awaiting the warmed panini. When it's ready "K" takes it out

(11) walks back to (8), sometimes confirms the number with "C" and

(12) goes in search of a panini starved shopper.

I watched this cycle repeat and bored my wife by wondering aloud why they couldn't work differently by having some kind of laminated picture and a chute at (3) so that you pick your panini, despatch it down the chute and grab a laminated picture of it (there'd need to be a certain number in circulation, with a barcode on). By the time you get to the cashier your panini may well be ready and the laminate can be scanned to pay.

Other countermeasures are available and this one needs some work (to link shopper & panini if leadtime varies) but there's an easy way here to (1) increase customer satisfaction (reduced leadtime) (2) reduce operator motion waste (less tired associates) (3) increase throughput and reduce labour cost...

...and yet, this is just a cafe and I've wasted 5 minutes of your existence on a first world problem. Except, imagine this thinking applied to an emergency Medecin Sans Frontier (MSF) treatment camp for ebola victims or a refugee camp on the Syrian border, or, or, or...there are any number of scenarios. To their credit, Toyota (and others) have helped in these kind of situations and I'd heartily recommend the following, again featured on Planet Lean:

Lean for Sustainable Development: Lessons from Myanmar

Fighting Dengue Fever with Lean Principles

Lean Management in Hospitals: Do it Yourself

& this tremendous (short) youtube video about Toyota supporting a New York food bank 

My point, society won't collapse if this cafe maintains it's wasteful practices BUT it does afford us the chance to hone our skills. Using them for good is trickier. I volunteer for a local charity and have also offered lean expertise pro bono two or three times over the last 2 years to charitable organisations. Each time the offer was ignored.

I suspect that there is a "what's in it for him/her, what's (s)he after?" barrier here that needs to be removed so that we can actually do some good and work on "Important things", like those of you currently working to improve Government services in Education & the NHS.

Either way, my panini was cold by the time it reached me.


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