Some of you may have read our case study about the Print Invoicing project we ran last year (http://www.shef.ac.uk/piu/casestudies). We were delighted that Print and Design Solutions (PDS) came back to us with another project.
The scope of the project was to look at the print estimating process. The purpose of the project was to reduce turnaround times from request to receipt of the estimate and create a standardised process that all staff could follow, and would also cover staff annual leave/absence.
We held a four-day event with a project team just before Christmas. The team had collected a lot of data for us to use, so the first morning involved data analysis rather than collection, this gave us a head start.
In the afternoon we were keen to understand the “voice of the customer’, we had a couple of customers of PDS come in and talk to the team. Then we spent the afternoon creating some customer personas, we had a bit of fun with some Lego minifigures and the team produced some really good presentations, identifying different customer types and what they need/want from the service.
Day two was good old process mapping, we identified 13 different ways for a customer to request a print estimate, this added a level of complexity for the customer and estimator and made it difficult to identify the order in which work was coming into the service. We also spent time looking at the file storage for estimates, and files required for production, We found 2100 folders in print estimating alone, this made it difficult for work to be tracked and created opportunities for jobs to be handled twice. We looked at the print estimating form and realised that it offered customers too many options e.g. type of paper, finish and that the guidance was unclear if a customer was unfamiliar with the print production process.
For the final two days, we delivered some lean training; we created a new process, an action plan for implementation and a presentation for the sponsor. Outputs were:
- An improved process that reduced the number of ways into the process to 4 (this was guided by the customer persona work from earlier in the week),
- An improved way of managing customer files
- Improved guidance for reception staff
- An improved form for the estimate request process (with a standard set of options for customers, and clear guidance for customers)
- Some physical layout changes within PDS which allow print estimators to sit together and share work as a team, rather than separately.
A couple of weeks ago we met up with the team, one month on, albeit Christmas got in the way of some of the time they needed for implementation.
Update on improvements:
- The estimating form has been produced; it looks fantastic and is already being used by new customers.
- The estimating team now sit together, this change has improved communication and workflow amongst the team
- The electronic file storage has changed and there is clear guidance for staff on how to use this.
- The team met with the whole of PDS to communicate why the changes were being made, and staff have been very supportive.
Further work is needed to deal with work that is shared via Google Drive or drop box, the team have some ideas, but need to test this out as a new way of working. Also some development work is needed to further enhance the print estimating form to allow file attachment.
We look forward to meeting up with the team at the three-month review meeting to hear about further progress and to start measuring the improvements. Already, the estimators are reporting a reduction in turnaround time for estimates and fewer estimates as work in progress.