Please Batch My Fries

I have to admit this post is partly a rant and partly an example when single piece flow might have been taken too far.

This past weekend I was McDonald’s with my family.  We all ordered burgers and fries. We were the only ones in restaurant in line.  Of course, the register furthest from the fry bin was where we placed our order.  After our burgers were made and put on the try the worker went to get our fries.  I was glad he waited until the burgers were finished because it took a few minutes.  I thought he was trying to keep our fries nice and warm.

Then it happened.  I get hit with single piece flow.

The worker walked slowly over to the fry bin.  I mean slowly.  Filled ONE small bag of fries and then slowly walked back to the counter and placed it on the tray.  Then he walked slowly back to the fry bin.  Of course, there was someone from the drive-thru filling fries so he waited.  Then he filled ONE small bag of fries and slowly walked back to the counter and placed the fries on the tray.  He did this two more times.  Each time waiting for the drive-thru worker to fill 2 or 3 fries.

I think I needed a clamp to shut my mouth it was open so wide in shock.

By the time I got all the fries and got back to the table the first two bag of fries were cold.  There was no way I was going back up to ask for more.

There is a time for single piece flow and there is a time for a batch.  The worker had a confirmed order and it was paid for.  At that point, batching could be an acceptable solution to move the work through the process.

As much as I push for single piece flow, always be aware of the process and situation and understand what is best to meet the customers’ needs.

Posted on July 6, 2011, in Customer Focus, Flow and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great illustration about how we need to be pragmatic, not dogmatic about “one piece” flow. At least he wasn’t bringing one FRY at a time 🙂

  2. Great post! I find that ‘continuous delivery’ is all the rage these days. Release smaller and more often, which generally I agree with. Again, it depends on your context, customers and type of product. We batch our releases because our customers cannot handle more frequent and smaller releases. Our clients are in a slow moving industry (investor relations) where changes are just plain scary sometimes.

    As always, it’s about figuring out what cadence is applicable and delivering whatever you consider value to your customers.

  3. Over the years, I have seen the same thing at movie theater snack stands no matter what city I’ve been in. Las Vegas, Birmingham, Salt Lake City…. Typically, I find McDonald’s to be fairly efficient with staff taking on many roles to get the orders out in a timely manner. A few others that I won’t name here who build to the order are horrible.

    As a lean practitioner, I don’t charge it off as part of the one-piece flow practice. This is sometimes the first job that these servers have had and for others, well, it might be the only job that they ever land even in a good economy. Poor, or little, training in an industry with a lot of turnover and few expectations perhaps?

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