Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Lean for Social Innovation: The GBFB Process Revealed

By Kali Diamond, Undergraduate student at Babson College. This post is the second in our Fall 2015 series that explores how Toyota Production System (TPS) philosophies were applied at The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) to support social innovation in MIS 3535 Lean for Social Innovation (held during Spring 2015). Posts include the opinions of thought leaders and Babson student perspectives.

Upon visiting The Greater Boston Food Bank, we walked into an intricate process developed to satisfy a substantial need: ensure all who are hungry can receive at least one meal a day in the Greater Boston Area. We were able to see from a measurement board in the staff room that they have made significant strides already in decreasing inefficiencies. Common metrics they used were cycle time, errors, and the number of agencies served. We also toured the warehouse, learning that it is separated into two interconnected activities: picking and loading.

The picking side encompasses printing the orders from the agencies, hand picking each food item from its designated shelf, and preparing it to be loaded. They allow orders to be placed up until 24 hours in advance of a pick-up, and are currently running a just-in-time inventory picking system for all dry foods. Very sophisticated! Still, we were able to identify some challenges that we hope offer gateways to operational improvements. The most immediate is the lack of a designated pathway for pickers to take through the grid system of food storage, resulting in frequent honking and queues. While they plan to implement a voice system to increase organization and efficiency, we believe we can begin implementing improvements now to prepare for the variations the voice system will have. This can include a set path for all pickers to take when collecting their various items. In addition to this we are eager to see what other potential improvements we are able to determine with more observations.

The loading side remains busy with 60 agency pick-ups/ day. Agencies are able to shop in the marketplace for 15 minutes before pulling up their vehicle to pick up their shipment in case there are any additional items they would like to add. Our team found this to be beneficial for the merchandise flow as it allows items close to expiration to be highlighted and helps reduce traffic at the shipping dock. The shipping dock has implemented changes in order to increase safety, and we hope that we will be able to find additional changes to increase efficiency and accuracy.

Overall, we were very impressed with The Greater Boston Food Bank and the TPS philosophies they have already implemented to see change. Their twist on acronyms to fit their business model, such as FIFO to “FEFO” (First Expiration First Out), are creative and enhance organization. We as a team are eager to spend more time at The GBFB to determine any bottlenecks and non-value added activities that can be reduced or eliminated to gain efficiencies.