Whether you are in a supermarket, bank, hotel, car rental facility, or any service industry you may have noticed the lack of performing any work that is not efficient. When there are issues that are not standard, people stumble through the process and virtually annoy the customer. The same is true in all facets of work life and the answer is the same. There is no standard work for performing the operations, a lack or training in the unusual circumstances, and the lack of proper management planning. In many articles and books, the focus on value stream mapping and standard work is manufacturing. In reality, it affects our entire culture and lives. Little is done to assure that processes are defined and standard work created for variations to those processes. If a price change needs to occur in the supermarket or if the use of an alternate fixture in manufacturing occurs, the results are the same. The cashier should have an easy step by step menu on how to correct minor variations in processing a customer and the operator should have standard work and work arounds for the unusual cases.
Where do you begin? Take the time to hold an event and create a value stream map. Within the map flow all the work-arounds and unusual processes. Display the rework loops to a normal process and the turn backs to both internal and external customers. Assure the value stream displays reality and not opinions or the engineered belief of the process. When the map is complete, review it with everyone and assure every element in the process is addressed.
Next, compare the process analysis to reality. Witness different people performing the process on all available shifts. The variation to the process will allow you to observe the lack of clarity in your processes and the variations that can occur. Take notes and communicate with people to get input about the variations. Compile your observations and review with your entire team to determine the correct method of processing. Then recreate your future state standard work to the optimum process.
When creating the future standard work, you must consistently “step out of the box” to review if certain current steps are necessary and whether simplification of operations can occur. Always look into a leaner mentality. There is always a way of eliminating waste. Whether is simplified operations, reduction of movement, elimination of non-value added steps, or simply reducing the variation of processes by mistake proofing them, a streamlined process is the only way to operate. In the service industry, there tends to be a focus on arduous step by step intervention. For instance, checking into a hotel, standing in line and waiting can be annoying. Why isn’t there a kiosk that with the swipe of your credit card your reservation is verified and simple questions are asked on preferred accommodations (i.e. King, Queen, Floor Preference, etc.) and number of keys required is entered and the keys with the room number drop into a tray? While not all travelers may prefer that type of service, an option can lessen the lines and wait for those that do want the face to face intervention. When the waitress sits you at the table, why isn’t there a portable tablet that allows you to enter drinks and appetizers that would allow someone requiring quick service to place an order in simple easy steps? This would reduce the wait time for a waiter/waitress. Many companies are beginning to make changes and those that do make those changes are grabbing market share from others. Some medical businesses are beginning to make the change through kiosks, defined stations for check in, and lines on the floor to eliminate confusion. These all are ways to simplify the experience and eliminate unnecessary steps and costs.
Look at your service, processes and methods of operation and determine where to start. Takes small bites of you process into consideration. While manufacturing is focused on lean processes, do not believe that it is only for those types of businesses. Make your business unique and streamline it through standardization. These changes do not require a massive effort but if you do not begin the process, you may be left behind in the market place.