Although it’s not the best time of day, due to the number of people in the supermarket, I have a good or bad habit of doing the shopping just after I leave work. I take advantage of that moment, on the way home, to disconnect and plan dinner. And there’s one thing (perhaps it’s my age) which really irritates me.
It’s when the man or woman at the checkout who is scanning the products suddenly changes their expression and, as if they have been abducted, stops their marvellous routine of scanning the products and leaves the checkout.
Although there may be more reasons, I have identified three that can cause this to happen:
- The checkout has run out of change. And, as all of us in the queue stand there waving our €50, €100 or €200 notes as if they were exotic fans, the cashier gets up to go to another till for change. This brings 2 checkouts to a halt: the cashier’s and the checkout where he or she goes for change.
- A product that needs to be weighed has no label. That charming retired couple have forgotten to weigh and label the bag in question, and the cashier, with the best of intentions (probably to avoid her reproaching him or vice versa), leaves the checkout to weigh and label the bag, leaving the queue unattended.
- Suddenly, right then, at that precise moment, the cashier decides that the number of notes he or she has in the till has become a great fortune and decides to bring your world to a standstill. They stop the queue, take out all the notes they have in the till, count them in front of you, fill in the cash reconciliation ticket, make a perfect roll with the notes, put the roll in that plastic torpedo and calmly send it to the afterworld via the suction tube that resembles something from a spaceship.
Meanwhile, the queue stands still. And I, the customer, am kept waiting, wondering why it always happens to me; and watching all the other queues moving fluidly.
And this is when I am reminded of some of the fundamental principles of Lean: produce what the customer wants, in the amount that the customer wants, within the period of time that the customer wants (without waiting), in a Fluid way, creating Flow… In each and every one of the Lean Manufacturing projects that we have tackled at IKOR, if we have really taken something to heart, it’s that it’s the product that has to flow; and the faster the better; and that all your improvement actions should be aimed at improving FLOW and eliminating Muda or waste. And in this case, Muda could be interpreted as the unnecessary movements that the cashier must make and the waiting time to which he or she subjects the products and consequently the customers in the queue.
I think that next time this happens to me I’m going to advise them that if they work on Multi-Skilling with the Water Spider that they have to ensure the proper stocking of the supermarket or warehouse with its trolleys and baskets, they will improve the flow of the product and, as a consequence, the satisfaction of the customer.