Do you have a bottleneck that is impacting service to your customers? Finding the source and fixing that bottleneck will accelerate improvement and customer service.

Situation:  Our client struggled with low customer service levels since they cut back with inventory on the ‘wrong’ items during a time of tight cash flow. Of course to add fuel to the fire, the customer also wanted product to be delivered at least 20% earlier, ideally 50% earlier.

If our client didn’t find a way to respond quickly, they would risk losing key customers.

Path Forward:  Upon looking at the order fulfillment flow, there were countless areas of opportunity. However, simultaneously working on these solutions would tax already-maxed out resources (who also were frustrated by angry customers) and accomplish nothing.

If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.  And, if you wait for all the details to align perfectly, you’ll start long after your key customers start looking to replace you.  Instead, take a step back and do nothing except observe and take a fresh view of the people, processes and systems.  Where are the vulnerabilities?  Undoubtedly, each person/ department will have a pet project. Eliminate all the noise and just look for the bottleneck.

Of course there could be more than one bottleneck but there will be one that is most significant.  Start there.  Find the source of this bottleneck and put all your resources on eliminating that bottleneck.  If the bottleneck is in a particular area of your operation, the related supervisor is the most important person in the facility.  If she/he needs help on a Saturday, everyone from the CEO to the line manager will find out how he/she can help.  Solving these one at a time will accelerate improvement in delivery performance.

© Lisa Anderson