Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Lean for Social Innovation: Processing Countermeasures

By Ella Overholt ‘15. This post is the fourth 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.

Because we were observing The GBFB during a tumultuous period of given the heavy snowfalls that disturbed operations of the food bank and agency partners, identifying abnormalities and instability came easy. In theory, The GBFB had an organized and sorted (5S) staging dock but as I walked around and noted the dock door assignments of the pallets, I found many to be out of place. Explanations were given such as cancelled or rescheduled orders shoved to the side or pickers were picking in advance and staged next day’s orders wherever they could. I found the root cause to be obvious once these areas of instability were identified and I could question why they were happening: volunteers often didn’t know the protocols as they may not be familiar with the site, frigid temperatures encourage agency volunteers to load as quick as possible to remove themselves from the elements, and a 20 minute time constraint further forced self-auditing practices to be skipped on a regular basis to meet the deadline.

When it came time for brainstorming countermeasures, I was looking for ways to help both the agencies and the shipper with auditing. I learned a key lesson here: it is imperative to follow the process all the way up to and through the improvement area. Without this knowledge it is impossible to identify countermeasures that get to the root of the instability. I followed a picker all the way through his picking process. This eventually led to my answer of a re-design of the automated pallet tag.

In terms of measuring the impact of countermeasures, I found it necessary to understand how this disturbs a current work-flow pattern and/or previous changes that the organization already worked to correct. I realized the importance of listening to the customers. Because I often went on-site at the same time on Wednesday mornings, I began seeing familiar faces and was able to follow up with them Their feedback was the most helpful in determining whether a countermeasure could be deemed a success, leading to standardization, or a continued area for improvement, an example of the customer first approach.

I also found standardizing the results crucial to be able to visualize a gap or progress related to the countermeasure- allowing the potential to check back in on the results and contextualize them in order to find continuous improvement.

What a ride! In retrospect I wish I had thought more about monitoring the long-term results while brainstorming my countermeasures. Those we communicated with on-site were the most helpful in providing performance feedback. Also all of my trials had a duration of an hour or two, so it was difficult to monitor long-term improvement, but easy to measure in the short term. Regardless, it has been an amazing process full of lessons and insights I look forward to taking with me into my work outside of Babson.