Special points of interest:
No, this isn't a story on how to make a pizza that has fewer calories or is fat-free. Rather, it is a story of how even a small "ma and pa" shop can effectively analyze its marketing; competitors; suppliers and process layout and by applying lean manufacturing concepts and tools, see a significant improvement in their bottom-line results.
This story reaffirms that lean manufacturing, as a strategy, philosophy; and as a tool, can take any process and with little or minimal cost, see dramatic improvements in its ability to perform and increase its competitiveness.
The story begins one day as I was sitting inside a corner service station, eating pizza from a pizza and chicken business located inside the service station. From my position, I could observe the actions inside both the pizza and chicken businesses (owned by the same person but operated as two separate businesses).
The pizza operation was located in an area approximately 15 feet by 20 feet. The equipment inside the pizza operation consisted of 3 ovens stacked vertically on top of each other and occupied an area about 3 feet by 5 feet, physically located in the middle of the room. To the left of the ovens was a cooler tray/table where all the ingredients that were for immediate use in making pizzas and sandwiches were kept cool. This cooler was slightly elevated about 6" above the work surface and was also slightly slanted to make it easier to take ingredients out of the separate tubs. The worktable where the pizzas were made on was about 30 inches wide by 6 feet long. To the left of this cooler table was a single cooler standing about 7 feet high, where sodas and containers of more commonly used ingredients that required refrigeration were kept.
There was a small 30 inch by 3 foot work table located to the right of the take-off side of the ovens where the cooked pizzas were taken manually from the oven, put into a pre-folded box and cut into slices. When the complete order was ready, the person working on the table or the person taking orders would let the deliverers know that an order was ready for delivery. The person next in line for delivering an order would take the food and place it in a special insulated delivery "bag to keep the food hot. A small inventory of pre-folded boxes (14 and 16 inch pizza boxes which were most common size pizza sold) were kept and stored on some simple metal shelving above the cooler table and the other worktable.
At the time I was observing, it was about 12:30 p.m., one of their high customer traffic times. I sat and ate my pizza, intrigued by the flurry of hectic activity that was going on in that small space. There were 6 people working:
I was amazed that anything was getting done in that small space.
The layout of the equipment with the ovens in the middle of the room clearly limited the movement of people and restricted where supplies that were needed to be kept on hand could to be located. People bumped into each other constantly. The person taking the orders and writing out the tickets would often put one hand over one of her ears so that she could hear better. The people working in the area spoke in a loud voice, often joking and laughing at a level that was clearing distracting to the order writer and heaven knows what the customer on the line was thinking.
The person making the pizzas did not measure anything and I wondered how he could insure consistency in weight, amount of ingredients used, etc.
When ingredients needed replenishing, it required someone to be told by the person making the pizzas that he needed "so and so". This person then walked approximately 50 feet, that took him on a course through the chicken place (which we will discuss a little later on) to a storage freezer area where extra boxes, frozen foods and ingredients were kept. This person would sometimes walk back and forth 3-4 times to get materials while the person needing the materials would often wait. Most of the pizza ingredients were kept in medium size boxes or 1-gallon cans. These required the person to return with the ingredient, open the box or can, and then put the ingredient in the proper cooler tray position.
I observed this operation for about 45 minutes. When the traffic died down and I went up to the counter and asked if the manager/owner was there. He was and I introduced myself. I asked him if he had a few minutes to sit and talk and we went and sat at one of the area dining tables.
I told him about my observations and what I do for a living. I asked him if he was happy with the way the pizza business was operating and had he ever thought about how the business could be improved.
He stated that that overall his business was doing well. He had owned the business now for about a year, and had worked for the previous owner for 2 1/2 years before purchasing the business. He had some occasional delivery problems; training problems; turnover; and of course, the pizza business competition was tough. But overall he was satisfied with business operations.
I asked him if there was one thing that he could improve with his current operations, what would that one thing be? He thought for a few minutes and responded, " I would like to see it more organized and people helping out before they are asked to. I would also like to see all of my drivers more "energetic" and do deliveries more quickly".
I told him that there was great opportunity to improve those aspects of his business and others things as well. I told him that I was willing to help him and would be willing to spend a few days working in the pizza area to get a better understanding of everything. I also requested to be a deliverer so that I could get first-hand experience with delivery.
We worked out an arrangement for my "pizza experience" and agreed that he would owe me nothing if he wasn't satisfied with my recommendations and he didn't realize at least a 10% improvement in productivity, measured by efficiency; reduced time from customer order to delivery; and reduction of waste. He agreed.
If you are like me and most other people, the process of pizza making seems pretty straightforward and simple. I was told by the employees that one of the "nice things" about making pizza was it was virtually impossible to "screw up". Pizza making consists of putting on a mixture of ingredients on a pie crust. If you messed up, no one usually noticed.
But as is the case in most situations, even the simplest of tasks are often more complex than it seems at first. The following are the "waste" that I observed during my first few days as a "professional pizza employee":
I observed the other deliverers for the next few days. It finally occurred to me why some of the other deliverers were "slow". If they went on a delivery and got a "good tip' they would take their time getting back because they were content with the money they made that hour. The usual means of payment for a pizza deliverer was $6.00 an hour base, $1.00 for each trip, and then the tips. It wasn't uncommon for the average deliverer to make $11.00 - $15.00 an hour. Their incentive was not customer service, but whether they were content with how much they made that hour. No performance measurements.
What I observed was that the deliverers would often switch the order of the tickets. They would do this if they didn't want to deliver an order out of town, or was too far away, or they knew the customer didn't give any tip or a very small tip. The owner and the person boxing the pizzas and completing an order did not pay very close attention to this aspect. Even when they did, they often didn't say anything.
Sometimes customers would request pizza, sandwiches and chicken. Even though the chicken and pizza places were right next to each other, you would have thought at times that they were located miles apart. Orders would be delayed because no one had taken the ticket to signal those in the chicken place that a customer order was taken.
From the above situations, it is easy to see that there existed several opportunities for improvement. But as it is customary in many organizations, people saw these things as "the way things were", and didn't give any thought to making improvements. The impact that these various forms of waste had on the overall operations was missed.
After a few days of working, I compiled a series of suggestions that I knew would help improve the efficiency and cleanliness. But I suggested to the owner that he and I hold a meeting with the employees and review what was observed and get their feedback and suggestions first.
A meeting was held, and as often the case, the employees were at first hesitant to say anything. With a little coaxing, they began to open up and started to offer many suggestions (we brainstormed during this part of the presentation). The end result was not only a comprehensive list of small, low or no cost improvements that was developed. The agreed upon schedule was a short- "mini-KAIZEN" event to reorganize, relocate equipment and then determine what was needed to be done after the event.
In short, the following things took place during the mini-KAIZEN event:
From the above examples, improved organization, workplace cleanliness, improved productivity were all accomplished by using lean manufacturing principles and tools. The changes that have been attained from a few short days of analyzing, planning and working with the employees and owner has helped this small business owner, in a highly competitive environment, reduce costs, while improving customer service.
So the next time you go and order a pizza, observe the layout and operation. You might be able to give a few ideas on how the business can be made "lean" and more productive, by the use and implementation of lean manufacturing concepts.
Dan Stoelb is President of the Lean Manufacturing Consortium, a professional networking organization that provides it members with information; resources and advice on how to implement Lean Manufacturing. For additional information contact Dan by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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