Sunday, February 29, 2004

Lean Pizza??

I was dispatched earlier this evening to the local Papa John's pizza outlet to pick up a large sausage and a small mushroom and breadsticks (no Atkins diet going on here, apparently) for the expanding family. I anticipated some delays, as the outlet is on Purdue's campus and since the dorms don't serve meals on Sunday evenings...well, you get the picture.

And was I ever surprised. A busy place, yes. Delays, no. In fact I purposely lingered because I saw some very astute workplace design.

The layout was tight. All the pizza preparation took place in a space about 12' x 20' (or about 3m x 7m). It was cozy. Yet it did not seemed cramped. Stations were right next to one another. The 14 or so college-aged employees did not have to walk to pass the pizza to the next stage.

The layout was "U" shaped just as good work cells should be. At one "open" end of the U was the dough, ready to be kneaded. The other open end of the "U" was the boxed, ready-to-go pizzas, right next to the cash register. The cashier merely listened to my name, turned and handed me the boxes. Down one leg of the "U" was the preparation. The closed end was the pizza oven. The other end of the "U" was the packaging. Clean, crisp. Of interest was that the materials moved in a clock-wise direction, not counter-clockwise as the best Lean operations do.

Visual tools abounded as I looked around the preparation area. From 15' away, I could see the visuals helping the pepperoni layout guy know just how many slices to lay down and where. Right next to the phone was the four-key steps to ask a phone-in orderer. All laminated and at eye level.

Information seemed to flow well, at least in one small example. I handed the cashier a coupon my wife had clipped, which was unfamiliar to the cashier. She knew who to go to, however and asked a seemingly-responsible person how to handle it. It worked...and saved me $7 on the deal.

I would have loved to have observed for a half hour or so and to have made some estimates of throughput and cycle times. But, given the well-known success of Papa Johns, I suspect the figures are favorable. I have know idea if they have a formal method utilizing lean or not. But the sparseness, closeness and U-shaped-ness sure had the fingerprints of good design.

Examples abound. See yours today. I hope this is helpful.

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