How the waste was gone – Web exclusive from Industrial Engineer magazine

In the February 2015 of Industrial Engineer magazine, the Case Study article looks at lean Six Sigma applications undertaken by the city government in Houston, Texas. Below is a list of project summaries about many of the city of Houston’s completed lean Six Sigma projects.

Completed projects

Houston Permitting Center: Eliminated over 140 hours of wasted time per month in the cashiering office at the Houston Permitting Center by removing unnecessary requirements in the cash tender process, creating standard work and implementing 5S.

Houston Permitting Center: Increased new and renewal fire alarm permit volume by 49% through tougher compliance and improved mailing and invoicing process. Reduced processing time by 86 percent.

Administrative and Regulatory Affairs: Reduced overall cycle time for ARA commercial permitting by half while simultaneously increasing permit volume by identifying non-compliant businesses. Set up a kanban system for permit processing, automated work assignment and used visual controls to manage workflow.

Administrative and Regulatory Affairs: Used Lean Six Sigma design techniques to reorganize the taxi cab permitting process reducing end-to-end cycle time from a month to 5 days on average.

Municipal Courts: Increased court collections rates by over 10 percent, a net annual increase of more than $1 million through better compliance reporting and payment processes. Began tracking performance of internal collections agents and required customers on deferred payment options to go through a more formal application process and provide a higher down-payment amount. Installed court kiosks for easy payment, reducing the queue at peak times.

Health and Human Services: Increased pollution complaint response capacity; Team assigned geographical areas and optimized routing, eliminated wasteful paperwork for investigators, and created standard work for investigation reports increasing their capacity to accept and respond to complaints.

Finance: Closed over 100 legacy grants valued at more than $173 million and created a future-state process to close grants upon completion resulting in more accurate financials.

Fleet Management Department: Improved Fleet’s receiving process, reducing processing time from 110 days on average to less than three days, improving customer relations and internal controls, and resulting in the reassignment of four FTEs. Estimated savings = $260,000

Fleet Management Department: Automated Fleet’s internal control process for NAPA invoices resulting in the reassignment of 3 FTEs to other functions. Estimated savings = $195,000 per annum foregoing additional FTEs.

Mayor’s Office: The Mayor’s Correspondence Office and 311 systems group redesigned the Lagan report for MYR-type Service Requests. Estimated time savings = 0.5 days per month from automating the report.

Current Projects

Human Resources: A Green Belt team is working with the Human Resources department to reduce the average time to hire from 60 days to four weeks or less. By using Lean and Six Sigma methodologies the team intends to eliminate waste, streamline sub-processes and export best practices to client departments.

Houston Permitting Center: A Green Belt team is improving the overall efficiency, and establishing a formalized customer service check-in process on floors 1-4 at the Houston Permitting Center (HPC) in order to reduce average customer wait time by 10 percent to 15 percent. So far, the team has implemented electronic plan review calendars, made ergonomic improvements to the building layout and standardized storage/presentation/location of documents required by City for various permitting processes.

Finance: A Green Belt team is looking at the time to fully onboard new-hires or re-hires in Finance. In the past, onboarding has taken anywhere between 8-24 days. This has translated into increased wait times and underutilized human talent. For this project, fully on boarded has been defined as having access to all software/hardware necessary to perform one’s job functions successfully. This project has two phases the first, is in-processing. The team will be mapping the current in-processing process, identifying waste and making necessary improvements. The second phase will be looking at a new-hire or re-hire’s first day of work to ensure productivity on day one. This includes software/hardware, parking access, badging/security access, and a new employee guidebook to outline general information, trainings and forms that need to be submitted within the next 30 days.

Finance: A project team developed an Executive Insight Reporting system intended to provide city Executive with insight into cost savings opportunities. The report tracks cell phones with no-use or overages, printing costs at a machine-level, position vacancies that could be eliminated or consolidated, missed early payment discounts, and non-standard IT equipment purchases just to name a few. In the first two months, action taken from this report has generated more than $280,000 in annual savings and we’re targeting $5 million in savings by fiscal year-end.

Administrative and Regulatory Affairs: A Green Belt Team working within Administrative and Regulatory Affairs Parking Management on new hire Parking Compliance Officer (PCO) training. It is currently taking an average of 45 days for new hire PCO’s to complete training and begin working independently. The Green Belt Team is looking at ways to streamline training leveraging current technologies (LMS).

Administrative and Regulatory Affiars: The Asset Disposition Office collects and auctions end-of-life property for the City, such as: fleet vehicles, surplus property, and scrap metal. However, the process for submitting end-of-life surplus property is unknown, or survives through institutional knowledge. Performance Improvement has partnered with Asset Disposition to increase knowledge about the process, streamline the collection process, and realize increased revenue through auction.

General Services: The General Services Department currently maintains a program through which departments and divisions can request minor commercial alterations for their office space. The Minor Projects Office has recently merged several groups under its authority, and this merger has created some confusion over what role each group will play in the CRTI process. Performance Improvement has partnered with Minor Projects to help refine Standard Operating Procedures within the division and identify potential cost savings where appropriate.

Solid Waste: The Westpark Consumer Recycling Center is a drive-through facility where 11,000 citizens drop off their recyclables each month. The Westpark facility recently witnessed a tremendous increase in the volume of material processed due to the closings of the Center Street and West University Recycling Centers. Wait lines for vehicles stretch down Westpark Drive and this has the potential to be a traffic problem in the near future. Performance Improvement has partnered with Solid Waste Management to conduct a time-motion study of the recycling process and reduce throughput times.