This is on the heels of recent posts about customer services. This morning, in the pouring rain and a howling gale, I dropped my mother’s car off at the garage for repairs. I hadn’t been there for about 7 years but was instantly reminded of why I stopped – shocking organisation which resulted in hassled staff and poor customer service.
Looking at what was going on I couldn’t help thinking, they could do with some Lean thinking here. A bit of Gemba Mat wouldn’t go amiss either. Admittedly it wasn’t a Toyota dealership, but I’m sure the manufacturers they represent would employ some sort of Lean thinking. Why on earth hadn’t it found its way out here?
This is what I experienced:
- Lack of signs. The service department and sales were opposite sides of a main road. There was nothing obvious to say this and I initially went to the wrong place.
- Drop off time. I was only offered 8.30am as was everyone else. This had negative consequences.
- At drop off time the area around the Garage is highly congested with people dropping off vehicles, commuter traffic and the local kids heading to school.
- There aren’t enough ‘service’ parking spaces at the garage. You either need to park on the main highway or in a nearby street.
- If you are being collected, your lift will have to park some distance away; a big deal if it’s raining like today.
- Everyone booking in at 8.30am leads to long queues and delays at the booking desk.
- People are hassled because they are running late, this translates into irritation with the booking clerk.
- The booking clerk gets annoyed, and a vicious circle develops with the next customer in line.
- Just to add the icing on the cake, the detailed information provided over the phone hasn’t found its way onto the partly prepared paperwork, so they ask you all the same questions again. Fine when you know your vehicle intimately, not so good when dropping off your mother’s car.
- Finally, you know that the car won’t be seen until at least 2pm.
- Now proceed to work….. “Have a nice day”….. No thanks to the garage.
I know there is a better way.
I’ve experienced it in other garages.
Had the garage taken even a cursory look at the process they would have seen so much opportunity to improve the flow and end up with happier customers and (I’m sure) happier and more engaged staff.
My suggestions to improve:
- Multiple booking in slots during the day. Even a morning and afternoon session would reduce the congestion and have considerable benefits.
- Better signs – let people know what’s happening and where. All pretty straightforward visual management / 5s activity.
- Please use the diagnostic information you get over the phone.
I do find it amazing that this was the customer facing end of a highly efficient manufacturing organisation that uses approaches like lean, yet it doesn’t seem to travel beyond the factory gates. I wonder why?
So, what’s the PONT?
- Some systems and processes are set up in a way that they cause blockages which results in an inefficient service and customer dissatisfaction.
- Customer dissatisfaction can have a negative impact on staff which leads to a ‘vicious circle’ developing.
- There are straightforward techniques like Gemba Mat which help improve processes and flow. They are widely used in vehicle manufacturing and could be adapted and applied by car dealers…….. please have a go.
But there is hope at the end of this tale. I’ve just come across the book featured in the picture. ‘Creating Lean Dealers’ by David Brunt & John Kiff. It was a Shingo Prize winner for research award in 2010 so well worth a read. I’m going to recommend it when I pick up the car, today hopefully.
“Car manufacturing has been transformed by lean over the last 20 years, yet car dealerships have remained virtually untouched – until now. “
Gemba Mat is an improvement tool which combines the ideas behind Ohno Circles, the Gemba Walk and enhances them through employee engagement. I think it is incredibly effective, not just as an improvement tool but also in how it engages and develops people. I saw Gemba Mat in use at Ricoh in Telford during an IdeasUK networking event. Thanks to Chris Nicholls from Ricoh for allowing me to share this.
The method is beautifully simple, low-cost and something I think could be used in just about any setting, not just manufacturing environments. This is how it works:
- The whole process takes 60 minutes;
- The observers find a good spot, and place the Gemba Mat on the ground;
- The observers then stand on the mat and observe what is happening in the process or activity in front of them;
- To help with the observations there are some prompts on the mat (7 factory wastes and 5 facilities),see the attached picture;
- Problems observed are recorded on an observation sheet;
- There is space for a maximum of 30 observations, and the observation period lasts 30 minutes;
- In the remaining 30 minutes the observer is tasked with resolving (closing out) one of the problems (getting a quick win I think is an important part of maintaining momentum);
- Remaining problems are considered as part of the Ricoh suggestion scheme;
- There are repeat visits to the area to confirm problems have been resolved or countermeasures are in place;
- The Gemba Mat exercise can also be carried out at different times of the day or from different observation points to see what problems can be seen.
This is an incredibly effective improvement and engagement tool. The results at Ricoh speak for themselves. They have won numerous international awards for quality and innovation, including awards from IdeasUK. At Telford the results they get for employee engagement in their staff survey are remarkably good.
A few things struck me while I was observing Gemba Mat at Ricoh.
- Ritualisation of the Improvement Process. The act of rolling out the Gemba Mat and placing it on the floor is highly significant, a bit like a ritual. It’s almost like saying to your brain, “forget everything else, you are now going into observation mode, to look for problems, and how to solve them”. We’ve all heard about athletes and performers going through rituals or warm ups before they perform. I’m sure there is something similar going on here, all of the thought patterns for problem spotting are brought to the front of your mind when you roll out the Gemba Mat.
- It’s a proper tool. The best tools are the ones that just work. They are easy to use; they help you get the job done, no fuss. Gemba Mat is just that, a perfect tool for the job.
- People like using it. In an offline conversation one of the employees told me that they had experienced some down time the previous week, “so we just picked up the Gemba Mat and went off to look at what another team did. They found it really useful”. This was a spontaneous act which the whole team got involved in. There were no management ‘drivers’, no external ‘push’, they just did it. If that’s not an example of people being engaged in work, I don’t know what is.
Thanks again to Chris and IdeasUK for the opportunity to see Gemba Mat in action. Follow @ChrisNicholls12 and @ideasworldwide (IdeasUK) on Twitter if you want to find out more, particularly if there are IdeasUK networking events at Ricoh, which are well worth attending.
So, what’s the PONT?
- Gemba Mat is an incredibly effective improvement and engagement tool.
- Like all the best tools it’s easy to use and just works.
- Ritualising the improvement process through the act of rolling out the Gemba Mat and placing it on the floor has an important effect on how people use the tool.
Links to other posts:
Gemba Mat in action at Ricoh.