A leader in dairy science and innovation, Fonterra Cooperative Group is the world's largest dairy product exporter. Headquartered in New Zealand, it owns a significant brand portfolio in Asia Pacific and partners many of the world's leading food companies. With 15 600 employees, the company has offices in more than 40 countries worldwide.
The Fonterra IS department has moved to outsource many traditional functions, such as the helpdesk, as well as provisioning and installing personal computers. Staffed by around 160 internal employees, the department coordinates the provision of about 200 desktop and laptop computers a month. Workload is determined by business growth, staff turnover or movement to new roles, capital project numbers and the current fleet’s age. A move within the organisation to focus on speed to market has meant a surge of capital project approvals. This increase has coincided with the current fleet approaching replacement age, resulting in an increased departmental workload.
An uncomfortable number of customers were experiencing extended delays in computer solution delivery, often resulting in the matter being escalated to the IS department. This meant multiple staff members were engaged in information gathering and fire fighting. Customer survey results showed declining satisfaction levels with the IS department’s IT solution delivery function.
The chain of events to deliver a correctly functioning PC to a Fonterra staff member involves many handovers usually absent from
an in-house process. Although using various suppliers/partners is beneficial in sourcing through ‘best of breed’ and fostering a sense of commercial competition, the Mean Time to Completion (MTTC) had stretched to 19 working days. Compounding this situation was the large variation: completion could be as short as seven days and as long as 42 days. Analysis showed that if details in the initial order were incorrect or incomplete, completion time often extended well beyond the average.
Occasionally the wrong solution was delivered to a customer. This occurred most often when an existing unit required replacement. Inadequate or wrong applications may be delivered, rendering the unit unsuitable.
Drivers for change could be summarised as: increased staff workload, extended delivery times driving down customer satisfaction and escalation to the IS department which resulted in many staff members being drawn away from other work. Also, inaccurate billing was compounding the problems.
A carefully planned Kaizen Blitz was preceded by an introduction to Lean principles through a Lean 4x4 workshop. A key principle was participation of those involved so that they may improve and own the new processes. Blitz team members were drawn from the Fonterra IS department and suppliers. The blitz was executed over a three-day workshop. A break was planned for normal work to proceed, then another two workshop days. The aims were to deliver measurable benefits in reducing effort duplication: decreasing MTTC: increasing customer satisfaction: and eliminating escalations.
Many opportunity areas were identified by the brown paper and Post-it™ note method. A consensus view emerged that the two focus areas should be initial order integrity and accuracy, plus supply chain speed. The team then divided into two groups to employ focused improvement and root cause analysis techniques to these areas. Approximately 69 actions were formulated, prioritised and allocated to participants.
The online method for ordering and capturing correct information was restructured and the implementation (request and ordering) process was redesigned and mapped to the online tool. This removed manual data transfer to a template that drove the process. Roles and responsibilities were clarified - especially at the handover interfaces. Confusion and ‘incomplete’ handovers were reduced dramatically.
Stock management and reporting were revised and enhanced. Central to this initiative was a move to multiple distribution centres – stockholdings weren’t lifted but dispersed to centres closer to the common request points. Vital KPIs formed the basis of a weekly management system and the team was measured against these. Analysis of low performance leveraged learning about the system and how it might be improved.
A balanced view of the IS department performance is obtained when the two performance indicators, backlog and call age, are reviewed. Following the Kaizen actions, backlog call volumes and age dropped to an acceptable level of around 97% - less than five days. Customer satisfaction has increased by around 13% and is now averaging 4.02 on a 5-point scale. This KPI continues to trend up. The query volume after billing has dropped substantially from about 22 to three a month.
MTTC has now dropped to roughly six working days. This has shown the team the possibilities, and a drive to further reduce the MTTC has been born. Continuous improvement is taking hold!
The positive approach to this opportunity has increased supplier coordination and cooperation. Fonterra IS suppliers are now following the results keenly and seeking further improvements.