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Value Stream Mapping (VSM) in After Sales Customer Support Service Department

S

sarareis

#1
Hello!

I am starting my internship in a manufacturing company but I am in the department of After Sales customer support.

The two main services provided are Technical Support and Spares sales.
My first task is to do a VSM for the service.
I've been searching a lot! And the most things I find is VSM's about real production, or healthcare services or even how to go lean with your own desk (office).

What I need is to do a VSM with the information flow. They receive emails with requests, but then they ask to the client or other technics information about it, and the answer to the customer gets delayed while the information goes back and forward inside the company (from the customer service, to sales department, to the storage department, to production department...).
I'm also having trouble to measure process times, because I can't simply sit behind them and measure the time they take to reply to an email or to process a sales order.

So I am asking for information or examples on VSM to an After sales customer support service department.

I know about these books
- The complete lean enterprise, by Beau Kayte and Drew Locher
- Value stream management for the lean office, by Dan Tapping and Tom Shuker
but I can't have access to them. So I can't take a look at them.

If you could help me I would really appreciate it!

Thank you
Sara
 
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R

Ralph Long

#3
Hello!


What I need is to do a VSM with the information flow. They receive emails with requests, but then they ask to the client or other technics information about it, and the answer to the customer gets delayed while the information goes back and forward inside the company (from the customer service, to sales department, to the storage department, to production department...).
I'm also having trouble to measure process times, because I can't simply sit behind them and measure the time they take to reply to an email or to process a sales order.


If you could help me I would really appreciate it!

Thank you
Sara
Sara, I may be able to help just a little (pun intended)... I'm going through a similar exercise and found that I can use "Little's Law" to put a number to the flow rate. Simply put: Flow = Inventory/throughput.

So, rate to process a 'unit' is = the amount of units in process divided by the units that go out in a certain time frame. You need to define the timeframe.

Little's Law is not exact, but it is a good way to assign a value to a variable process.
 
S

Sara Fletcher

#4
Hi Sara,

You didn't mention your background, so I'll assume you haven't had any substantial Industrial Engineering or work process measurement training, and probably very little work experience in your field.

I hope your first step was to check out Value Stream Mapping on Wikipedia. I lifted the following from their site and edited it a bit.

Value stream mapping is a lean manufacturing technique used to analyze and design the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer. At Toyota, where the technique originated, it is known as "material and information flow mapping". It can be applied to nearly any value chain.

Shigeo Shingo suggests that the value-adding steps be drawn across the centre of the map and the non-value-adding steps be represented in vertical lines at right angles to the value stream. Thus the activities become easily separated into the value stream which is the focus of one type of attention and the 'waste' steps another type. He calls the value stream the process and the non-value streams the operations. The thinking here is that the non-value-adding steps are often preparatory or tidying up to the value-adding step and are closely associated with the person or machine/workstation that executes that value-adding step.​

So first, clearly identify the process you are measuring and its desired outcome. Let's say you're working on the "Answering a customer's questions via email" process. The key steps are probably:
  1. Customer email arrives (triggers the start of the clock)
  2. Wait for Customer Service to read email (NVA delay)
  3. Email is read by Customer Service (this is arguably value added, since the information is "Processed" by the CS rep - an online FAQ could eliminate the whole process for many questions)
  4. Wait while CS obtains an answer (NVA delay)
  5. CS replies to email (Value-added and stops the clock)

You have to be very focused on the difference between a step that is required and a step that adds value to the desired outcome or product. So, while obtaining an answer is required, it doesn't add value. In a perfect world, the answer would already be at CS's fingertips. The purpose of this process is to reply to the customer with a complete and correct answer. Any delays in doing so, including obtaining the answer, are NVA. But you probably already realize that.

I think it would work for you to think of your process as simply the above, but within the "Obtain an answer" step, you'll have a series of very similar, but NVA processes that repeat until a satisfactory answer has been reached. I wouldn't worry about exactly how long it takes to actually process the paperwork or for either CS or the Subject Matter Experts to read/answer emails. Those times will usually be dwarfed by the delay times. Ralph Long's reply about flow rate is correct, but it combines the waiting time and effort time so that it's usually harder to identify and eliminate the waste of waiting. In this case it probably doesn't matter. Improve the delay times and you'll get a huge improvement.

I'm afraid you may have to do some serious data mining of email threads and their time stamps. You'll need to cooperation of the customer service reps to access them. If you're able to have them log times on a data collection sheet, you'll be able to come up with answers much faster. Check with your boss on getting that backup.

Please feel free to send me a message if you have other questions.

Ciao
Sara :)
 
M

MichaelGallinger

#5
What I need is to do a VSM with the information flow. They receive emails with requests, but then they ask to the client or other technics information about it, and the answer to the customer gets delayed while the information goes back and forward inside the company (from the customer service, to sales department, to the storage department, to production department...).
I'm also having trouble to measure process times, because I can't simply sit behind them and measure the time they take to reply to an email or to process a sales order.
Your problem seems simple enough, 'mapping' your process will be the easy part for you, do you really think you needs VSM mapping for this? simulation could achieve a lot more for you in this case and there are products out there that can do this, anyways, what I think is that any distribution you create on your own without consulting the hard data will give you incorrect and inconsistent results. Consult your boss gather hard data from the support staff, you may have to sift through a ton of emails but at the end of the day you will have hard data in your hands that you can use to create distributions, there are software's out there in which you can just 'plug in' your data and create distributions. Sara Fletcher has a very complete and appropriate answer as well.
 
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