Following my article helping you better understand the different types of time, you now know the pace required to meet the needs of your customers. But you may have cycle times too long to answer. You may also have delays that exceed the expectations of your customers. I propose three methods to improve everything. For each one I give you some explanations, and examples in the sector of the service.
Move tasks out of the process
This method is the basis of the SMED and is simply to ensure that all the operations performed in the process are value-added at the time they are performed. Of all the actions taken, what could you do at another time? You must list all the operations performed by your teams and by the client. For each, indicate the time it is currently taking, then evaluate the possibility of putting it at another time …
Example: airlines are increasingly encouraging customers to check-in online, so before arriving at the airport 24 hours before take-off. They reduce the time required to choose the seat at the counter, but also confirm their actual filling rate faster.
Instead of optimizing the resource’s capacity, eliminate the complete step
You could go further and completely eliminate some steps in your process. We are still in the SMED philosophy. On the other hand, removing a step, unless it is clearly worthless for you and your customers, will often require investment. Outsourcing some or all of the tasks is less expensive. So we start with the latter. If you have thoroughly documented your process (and the time required for each step), you will be able to quickly assess the ROI of eliminating a step.
Example: some car rental companies do not require check-in at the counter. They offer their loyal customers to go directly to the vehicle and leave with it.
Prevent work fragmentation due to specialization
When evaluating your process, do not stop at the actions of the person (or group) who is bottleneck or want to improve. You must evaluate the end-to-end process, and from the customer’s point of view. Maybe one of your internal processes is excellent. But if the client performs some duplicate activities, then your organization is not efficient. Each of the two services works well, but duplicate operations waste time for you and your customers. A workshop with everyone involved, or better still a Gemba walk where you can live the process as experienced by your customers will bring you many ideas for improvement.
The most difficult question will remain to know which sector should take action, which people have the right level of competence to do so.
Example in a medical center or an emergency department. The nurse takes the vital signs of the patients and documents the symptoms described by the patient. The doctor can then diagnose the patient more quickly.
Whatever the methods to improve the cycle time or processing time for customers, you need to know its process, and know it from the customer’s point of view. Cartography and Gemba are your two key tools for getting there.