For the uninitiated, JIT stands for Just in Time and the most ardent manufacturing supporters would cry out, “Hey that’s mine!” Indeed JIT has its roots in manufacturing, with a lot of people calling it symbolically, Just in Time production which says, “Delivering the right product, with the right quality and the right quantity at the right time”. We start this article by asking, “Can JIT be applied to a Service analogy?” Would the JIT principles hold okay in a typical service setup? To illustrate this, we take the example of a Call Center setup where customers call in for a lot of reasons (An Inbound Financial Services center).

Customers call for a lot of reasons – Credit card thefts, transaction inquiries, payment processing etc. Some agents are efficient and good, while some are not. Some may be experienced while some may be not. Now the question is: How can we smooth out the call taking process across the entire Operations floor to ensure that we deliver the perfect call as per customer expectations every time? How do the benefits stack up in delivering such a call – To the customer as well as to the business!

The Plan

Let us start by defining what the correct call would be. Here we stratify the calls into groups, and make models for each call type. In the model, we specify things the call center agent must do in order to satisfy the customer completely. By doing so, it is desired that the call center would have found out an efficient way of handling calls by minimizing their Handle Time.

The plan could only be as good as on paper, if it is properly implemented. If not, it could be like a cheap gold watch. To ensure that the plan is implemented properly, we need to install some agent assisted automations. These automations will guide the agents to do all the necessary steps as instructed. Not doing a particular step will initiate an ANDON like scenario, where the supervisor could come immediately and check what is happening with the system that resulted in him violating his process.

The GEMBA Walks

It is here that the management team decides to conduct GEMBA walks regularly with the process being handled by the agents. The idea behind conducting GEMBA is to do GENCHI GENBUTSU, to check if all elements of the process are working fine and if any problems are identified and detected, to make sure that the process always works fine.

The Benefits

Post the process modelling and continuous GEMBA walks, the benefits have started to pour in. Hypothetically, if all goes well until now, the below mentioned benefits could be seen:

  1. Automation reduces the need to train agents. As a result training time goes down, resulting in about 20-30% reduction in Lead time.
  2. Due to automation of the monitoring process due the agent-assisted monitoring process, agents spend less time off calls, resulting in a 20-30% increase in availability of agents on calls.
  3. Due to re-engineering of calls, After Call Work is reduced and AHT is reduced as well. ACW is reduced by 90% and AHT is reduced by 40%.
  4. Automation handles the boring and non-value added tasks taken care of by the agents. This results in an increase in employee satisfaction.
  5. Another tangible benefit here is fewer turnovers, as employees seem to be doing tasks that suit their skill sets and not spend their time on mundane tasks.

The Pitfalls

The benefits could only be realized if the call center agents decided to use the proposed solution as their own. That is one of the keys to any successful solution deployment. Management support is all fine, but if the employees who wish to participate in deploying the solution don’t agree to the validity of the solution and don’t wish to deploy the solution whole-heartedly, the solution would have fallen flat.

Employee involvement and Leadership support are two ‘soft’ factors we did not speak about in the solution deployment schema of things. One of the reasons for that is --- These are taken resistance points in any solution deployment. It is these that a practitioner will have to overcome first, before he even thinks of deploying an improvement solution on his team.

Applying Just in Time production to a service setup is finally not as tough as we thought it would be. The principles remain the same and so does the approach. What you should know is --- JIT is an end output and not a set of tools by itself. You need to fine tune your operations in such a way that it meets the prescription of JIT.

When you get to apply the techniques to model your business on JIT, remember one thing --- Respect for people and an eye for defects are two things you should never forget at any time.

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