Wednesday, December 07, 2011

A final toast to #IHI

Just when I thought it was safe to eat the oatmeal, I discovered problems with the bagels!  Readers from last year's IHI National Forum may recall my series of articles about the non-Lean system used to serve oatmeal at the conference facility.  That was a four-part series.  And remember, too, this Lean conference in Springfield, MA, where they had a problem serving the toast.

So, now, look at this set-up.  I first saw the potential for a problem when I came downstairs and noticed a really, really large number of bagels and one four-slice toaster per station.  I guessed that this would create backlogs.

And, voila!  When the people came to eat, sure enough.  Not enough toasters for the flow of traffic.  We had introduced a blocking batch process in what should have been a cleaner continuous process.  This creates waste, in the form of unnecessary time spent.

One of the hotel staff people saw me taking the pictures, and we started joking about the problem.  S/he said, "We used to have another toaster at each station, but the electrical circuitry in each socket got overloaded, so we had to remove one.  This back-up always happens."

This demonstrates that in a facility, Lean starts in the design.  The architect and electrical planner for this conference center did not have a full understanding of how the building would be used.  Waste built in is waste that lasts forever.  Another lesson to those in health care.


Margaret Minor Wood said...

I draw a different conclusion from this than yours, but also a conclusion that you have often mentioned in your blog. I wonder if anyone who manages the facility knows about this condition: have the people who are serving the food conveyed it? My guess is that there if they got an electrician in, they could fix this: the real issue is poor communication.

Barry Carol said...

The problem could be even more systemic. If there are also too few electrical outlets in the hotel rooms to plug in or recharge the proliferation of electronic devices including laptops, iPhones and Blackberries, the facility might need to upgrade the capacity of its electrical distribution system to accommodate more outlets where they’re needed. That would be a pretty expensive proposition which management may not be willing to undertake, at least until the facility starts to lose market share to competitors.

Susan Carr said...

I noted two more problems with the bagels: 1) having settled in while waiting for bagels to toast, some people stayed at the toaster table to eat (further adding to the congestion), and 2) the bagels weren't cut through enough to tear apart, and the knives weren't sharp enough to finish the job. Turns out that freshly toasted bagels are a challenge!

Anonymous said...

Kind of amazing - while on 2 road trips in both the south and the north last season, I stayed at some less than fancy ( but dog-friendly) motels. Every one of them had the bagel issue conquered - at least 3 toasters, bagels nicely sliced, etc. I'm sure they operate at considerably slimmer margins than this hotel, too.


Christine (sociologist) said...

Look on the bright side! Time isn't necessarily wasted if this bagel jam gives folks a chance to interact with colleagues as they wait in line. Maybe it was designed to help people start conversations with strangers!

Paul Levy said...

Yes, a good thought!