Sandwich Making Muda

By Ron Pereira Updated on May 17th, 2017

I absolutely love to watch people. And I don’t mean watch in a creepy kind of way…

I mean I love to watch people work and do their jobs.

Well, today I was getting some lunch at a restaurant I often go to and I noticed they had implemented a process change.

Back in the day

In the “old days” the process they followed to make and package a sandwich went something like this. Note: I’ve marked what I consider to be value added (VA) and non value added (NVA).

  1. The employee asked me what I wanted (VA)
  2. The employee immediately started to make the sandwich (VA)
  3. The employee grabbed the Styrofoam box that was at point of use (NVA)
  4. The employee placed sandwich in box and closed it (VA)
  5. The employee handed me the box (VA)
  6. I paid

It was a pretty good process – with 4 of the 5 steps being VA – from my perspective as a customer.

Out with old, in with the new

Well, today, I noticed the line was moving extra slow. When I finally got up there I could sense the employees were frustrated. I, as you can imagine, watched to see if I could figure out why.

It didn’t take me long to figure out why. Here was the new process this same guy I’ve ordered from for over a year went through to make and package my sandwich.

  1. The employee asked me what I wanted (VA)
  2. The employee wrote down what I wanted on a piece of paper (NVA)
  3. The employee started to make my sandwich (VA)
  4. The employee grabbed some foil like paper and wrapped my sandwich up (NVA)
  5. The employee grabbed the new little open topped cardboard container they were now using (NVA)
  6. The employee placed some colorful paper in the bottom of the container (NVA)
  7. The employee placed my nicely wrapped sandwich in the container (VA)
  8. The employee grabbed a paper bag (NVA)
  9. The employee placed the container into the paper bag (NVA)
  10. The employee taped the piece of paper onto the bag (NVA)
  11. The employee handed me the paper bag (VA)
  12. I paid

Yikes. This new process now has 12 steps! OK, OK… maybe I could have combined some of these… but of these steps again only 4 were value added.

Cost Savings?

I am not quite sure what caused this change. Perhaps there are material cost savings, but I find that hard to believe since there are more “parts” involved.

Perhaps there are environmental benefits, which of course, are a good thing.

But all I know, from my perspective as a customer, this “new” process has tons of muda, or waste, in it. And it makes me want to go somewhere else for my sandwich now.

And the worst part of all? I think it’s a pretty safe bet none of the employees tasked with actually delivering value to the customer were involved in, or asked about, this process change.

How do I know that? Well, I don’t for sure… but one thing was definitely missing from the guy’s face that made me my sandwich – a smile.

What do you think?

Do you have any idea why they made this change? And if it were for a good reason like to be more environmentally conscious, how else could they have done it? What would you do if you ran this restaurant?

  1. Scott Sorheim

    March 20, 2009 - 8:39 am

    Marketing change? …in the name of a “better” user experience or appearance with the colorful paper and new container.

    And we’re they delivering any new “value” with this process? It actually even sounds like more of a pain for the customer. I get frustrated with the amount of packaging at a lot of places, especially if you’re going to eat in and unwrap it as soon as you get to your table anyway.

    Sounds like they did a focus group, got some feedback, and ran with it…not unlike the recently botched Tropicana change.

    (side note…not trying to rant on marketing here…just speculating that’s what initiated the change)

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