But take a look anyway, if you have an interest in process improvement in hospitals. This is a collection of my best posts on this topic.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lean is for bakeries, too

There is a problem once you learn the Lean philosophy and techniques: Every setting prompts you to imagine how much better it could be if these principles were adopted.

Earlier this week, a friend gave me a sample of some marvelous cranberry bread from a new bakery in Wellfleet, PB Boulangerie. She warned, though, that the place has long lines and that I should be prepared to wait, unless I arrived at the 7am opening time. I arrived at 7:05 and found a line of 20 people. Here is a picture of the ones behind me after I had been there ten minutes.

Now, it is summer on Cape Cod, and who really cares if you have to wait? You meet people from all over and compare notes about beaches, restaurants, and the like. But, then we noticed that the line was scarcely moving. Earlier customers set up their coffee and pastries at a nearby table, and they were practically finished eating by the time I approached the front door.

Once inside, the problem was made evident. There were plenty of serving people (four), but the bakery was rife with batch processes. Two people were in charge of taking orders for bread and pastries; one person was in charge of coffee orders; and one person was the cashier. After the bread person took your order and put it carefully in bags, s/he would place the order on a low shelf, under the counter near the cashier. Meanwhile, the coffee person would hand you your coffee directly.

By the time you got to the cashier, she had become a bottleneck. She would reach under the counter and grab the closest order, and lift it up and place it on the counter and say, "Did you have two baguettes?" and you would say, "No, I had the brioches," and she would bend down and replace the first order with your order. Meanwhile, some independent process would be going on for the coffee.

The person next to me was a process engineer, and so you can imagine the conversation we started to have. What if there had been a continuous process, with visual cues, all focused on the needs of the customers? The possibilities were endless.

In this case, though, the elapsed service time, start to finish, was 55 minutes.

But, here are the almond paste and raspberry brioches, along with the cheese bread and cranberry bread. Worth the wait!

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