My Suggestion to Improve Long Beach Airport

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Long Beach Airport is tiny, has oddly artistic lines and is blessed with palm trees set against a blue sky. The airport’s single terminal ends almost before it begins. Baggage claim is a short stretch of conveyor, outside of the airport, under an awning, across from an ice cream stand on the sidewalk. Although not often said about airports, it is charming. A plaque on the outside explains its historic importance, built in 1923 and home to some of the earliest efforts at manned flight. As if I needed reminding that my holiday was ending and it was time to get back to kaizen, there was a suggestion box placed directly across from where we sat waiting for our aircraft to carry us back to the mossy roofs of Seattle.
The forms above the box requested “HELP US BETTER SERVE YOU” and asked a series of 9 questions such as “Were you able to locate the following Airport facilities with relative ease?” and “Did you find our directional signage to be adequate?” as well as ratings on the facilities and overall experience. It was refreshing to have the managers of a public facility ask about the adequacy of directional signage. They care about visual management. In fact, if you look carefully at the photo you will even see a blue arrow in the background, on the door. If you follow the signs to the wash rooms, you will encounter this door which is not the wash room door, therefore the use of directional signage. It could be coincidence, but this suggestion box appears to serve a purpose!
Another example of the performance improvement mindset at this public facility may be the sign on the entrance to the security check area (in a building adjacent to the terminal, it being too small to accommodate such a thing). Unfortunately I walked by it with too many bags in hand and too eager to start the ritual of shoe removal, the filling of trays with electronics, the disposal of forgotten beverages in bags, etc. to take proper note of it. On this small sign was something like “Highlights from TSA’s work today” and it listed four bullet points, all referring to examples of people the TSA employees caught trying to go through security with prohibited items. The most memorable was “two cases of individuals with artfully concealed weapons”. Some of us may become impatient with the security lines, but these performance indicators are a useful reminder that they serve a purpose. The TSA should adopt these reminders as standard visual controls for all ports.
We filled out a survey / suggestion form while we waited, and dropped it in the box. My suggestion to improve Long Beach Airport was “please visually display the number of suggestions received and the number implemented.” I don’t know when my next visit to Long Beach Airport will be. If you pass through and see that my suggestion was implemented, let me know!

5 Comments

  1. George

    April 12, 2010 - 2:22 pm

    Jon,
    I’ve got the software that can replace that box with a kiosk (possibly an iPad). It will tell them how many suggestions they received and how many they implemented, and allow them to display it in a visually attractive format.
    …you don’t happen to have the suggestion box administrator’s name, do you? 🙂
    Cheers.

  2. Mark R Hamel

    April 12, 2010 - 5:38 pm

    Hi John,
    Really enjoyed this post! Without some basic and visual insight into the suggestion system process (what’s the standard work?) and performance (number of suggestions, status, etc.), it’s very easy to dismiss it. Kind of like an old suggestion box, with a lock on it (for which the key has been long since lost).

  3. Mark Graban

    April 13, 2010 - 8:15 am

    This might be one of the few cases where a lock is appropriate for a suggestion box, unlike the one hospital I worked with where they HAD lost the key to the suggestion box. They’re using a much more visual method (as David Mann shared in his Creating a Lean Culture book).

  4. John Santomer

    April 13, 2010 - 10:07 pm

    Dear Jon, Looking at the set questionaire reminded me some very important points one of my advisor used to drill on; “If you need to benchmark anything, make sure that the thing is acheivable, measurable and sustainable.” At a glance, the list seemed to contain only a choice between “Yes” and “No” responses with a few “whats”. I wonder if these list of questions would suffice the to address the points needed for “kaizen”. And! Even if they did put the suggestions up, we all know the level of involvement Management should take for change to effect…

  5. Jon Miller

    April 15, 2010 - 11:39 am

    Hi George. I don’t have the name but you could try mailing
    ADMINISTRATION OFFICE, LONG BEACH AIRPORT, 4100 DONALD DOUGLAS DR 2nd FL, LONG BEACH CA 90808-9943