Saturday, October 12, 2013

Finally, 15 Minute (Lean) Car wash line.

As a lean fan I tend to look at any line of production with the lean eyes. I can’t help it. The car wash line is one example of a very annoying one to the customer when it is not efficient. Waiting in line for all the process steps to be completed (and then paying for it) sometimes it is a long and no pleasant experience at all. But, there are places where its deferent. Why? Without a doubt, when the principles behind lean processing are applied and used washing your car in the car washing line can be a more pleasant experience, where you, as a customer, will probably be more willing to pay for the service, and value, you got. 

The washing machine looks great in the videos, but does it alone provides the quality of service the customer needs? Car washing is not all about the washing machine; It has a lot to do with the process and the ability to improve according to business value requirements.

This weekend I have decided to take some shoots and follow the production line of the last place I’ve been to. I’ve been taking the family car for a wash ever since I had my license, and it has always been the same. Usually it takes 30m to 1h from the time I am arriving to the washing line till it’s all done and i can drive away. It’s so annoying taking your car, knowing that you have so much stuff to do on a Friday morning and this assignment takes to much time. The only solution is to arrive to the washing line very early in the morning, or have someone else take your car for a wash.

Well, I have always known it wasn’t the best efficient line, but there was no other in the area… until I got to this one.. only 15 min from start to end.
What’s the deferent? You’ll see.

The old way, is it as great as it looks in the commercials? (A great machine BTW)

Well, this is how it goes here. Its Friday, everyone washes their car in Israel. Why? I think its just because it's a non working day, and a very short one, just before every business will shut down for the Sabbath.
The flow is as follows:

1.         Park your car in the line (usually a long line).
2.         When you are closer to the tunnel you are requested a payment.
3.         Wait to enter the tunnel.
4.         Get out of the tunnel in Green light.
5.         Drive to the parking place where where the internal cleanning of the car is placed (usually a hold up there – sometimes not enough stuff, not enough vacuums or just a long lines of cars waiting for (no) parking space)
6.       Wait for the car to be internally cleaned, (windows, vacuumed, panels, spry, tiers, seats, rugs...) while only one cleaner is in charge over one car) therefore this is usually taking most of the times.
7.        Tips – Each cleaner is in charge of a car therefore collects his own tip for his own personal effort, rewarded to his personal work only. No rewards for team work.
8.        Needless to say that while waiting, there may be argues between car owners  ove rparking space and over 'who was first'… it really doesn’t worth it.

Usually there a regarbage laying around, no clean towels and a mess with the equipment. 

Well, every business has deferent degree of efficiently in its production line but usually this is how it looks like and it seems no one know or want to change it. Why is that? After all, customers (including me) keep coming in.

Well, instead of keep digging into the old style let’s look into something that does work. Remember the 15 minute cycle time vs. 30m (to 1 hour) cycle time in the old style? Here’s why.

1. Flow:
a.      The line activities start right away when you enter the carwash waiting line. Why wait if the business can offer service that will shorten your waiting time and can be deliver earlier anyway? This action alone probably cuts short a lot of working time from the end steps of the process and reduce the overall cycle time for the customer.
                                                               i.      Rugs are pooled out to the washing machine and brought back right before the car enters the tunnel.
                                                             ii.      In case of a long line vacuumed also starts in this phase. Reducing waiting time and overall cycle time in high pick production.
b.      Internal clean up, a usual bottleneck is handled by taking few cleaners to start clean one car, this way reducing the customer cycle time.  Instead of having one cleaner in charge of  each car as the old style applies the entire team reduce the waiting waste of a customer by internally cleaning the car as a team. This is a very a powerful and effective mindset and waste reduction activity.

c.   Finishing – Tires and spray are cleaned at the last moments just before the customer takes the car. All the materials are ready according to the flow steps.

d.   The car engine is running all the time, so at the end all the customer has to do is get into the car, enjoy the nice smell of a clean car and ride a way (Even the mirrors are back to place , how connivance is that?)

2. Visual management 5S 
The entire washing line is visualized: Everything is sorted according to the relevant activity where the car needs to run; Everything is cleaned an in order (and the righ shape) according to the business understanding of an effective flow; And it also looks like every employee is aware and tuned to the business rules up to the point of explaining the rules to the customer.

3. Mass production preparations 
As in every Friday, the production line gets ready to handle a lot of cars by preparing the right materials in the right place.

4. Cleaners Tips 
Visible, near the place where the car owner can sit and relax and in plain view.  Everyone is accountable as a team to get the car out of the line clean and with customer satisfaction. This is a powerful mindset approach where everyone is accountable and rewarded for a team effort as a team.

5. Payment – is being taken at the end of the line along with other offering (to increase incomes).
6. Last but defiantly not least: everyone smiling , and customer orientation is a mindset.


Read more about lean principles:
·         Lean principles
·         Lean 5s and visual management
·         Reduce waste
·         The lean process of Kaizen


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