All I wanted was a cup of coffee: Reflections on McDonald's and maintenance processes

Question: Jeff, you often talk about business processes and the discipline required to make everything work together. Can you elaborate further? We can’t seem to put it all together within my organization.

Tim, maintenance planner, AL

Answer: Tim, your question could not have arrived with better timing, from a personal perspective. In the early hours this morning, I pulled into a McDonald’s for a drink before heading to a plant site. Yes, I can see the purists shaking their heads, but Starbucks doesn’t work on my wee-hours-of-the-morning schedule.

Take a moment to ponder this question: How do you take both young and old workers across the world and ensure a consistent experience for the customer? You might respond by saying that you leverage common business processes, standardized work, and auditing to ensure compliance. Complement that with the concept of adding tools to increase throughput to service more customers from a sales volume perspective – for example, having two ordering lanes with order receipt screens to eliminate errors and delays. Separate windows exist to collect money and deliver the product. Welcome to McDonald’s. The customers and employees differ from one shift to another, but the customer experience is generally the same. The process of making an Egg McMuffin is the same from one store to the next. Following my visit, I reflected on this and how it applies to maintenance.

But before explaining more, I want to share insights from another group, as well. Take a marketing agency: While you may think that each customer journey is unique and different, nothing could be further from the truth. These groups leverage business processes, standardized work, and automation. While the websites and clients' industry verticals may be different, the way each client is serviced is really the same. For larger agencies, automated bots are used to address common customer service issues. How a new client is onboarded is identical from one to the next. While each client's content is different, the process of setting up its advertising with Facebook or Google AdWords is the same. 

Maintenance should be no different. While we haven’t reached the stage of using bots with most maintenance groups, we must leverage processes and standardized work to ensure a consistent experience for our partners with regard to asset reliability. Yes, it requires a discipline to stick to it. As more organizations move into IIoT approaches, the opportunity exists to automate work-order creation and even work scheduling using more advanced CMMS software approaches. The entire work execution process – issuing the work request, getting approvals, planning, obtaining materials, and scheduling – is another example of process standardization. Templates are used to create precision job plans and PM task plans. MRO storerooms that kit and stage materials are another example. Just like McDonald’s has and continues to optimize its strategies, so must maintenance and operations do the same from a continuous improvement perspective.

When you get the consistency down, exceptions to the process should be obvious and painful. Continuing with my experience today, I pulled up the ordering screen on the outside lane and placed my drink order. Another car was on the inside lane, with the driver placing his order, or so I thought. As we approached the point where both vehicles merge into a single lane, the individual motioned for me to pull forward. Thinking that he had been ahead of me and not wanting to mess up the queuing of orders, I motioned for him to move ahead of me, and he did. At least, I thought he had ordered. He pulled up the first window, opened his car door, and commenced placing his order. There was some confusion on the order-taker’s side, and then the money changed hands, with some debate over that matter, too. Meanwhile, cars were stacking up behind me. The order-taker was trying to balance the business process interruption while gathering additional orders from the people arriving in two lanes. Then, the individual drove up to the delivery window and opened the car door again. It appeared there was a problem taking the order, and more disruption ensued. I hope he enjoyed the drink I ordered, as once I arrived the window, the employee handed me something totally different. More disruption ensued remaking my drink.

When disruption to business processes and standardized work for maintenance occurs, it should be painful, too. We should look to understand why from an auditing approach. That’s a reason we track schedule-breakers to our scheduled work process. When the wrong materials are kitted for planned work, we need to understand why. When production runs late and fails to give up the assets for maintenance, we need to understand why. I can think of other examples; can you? Which disruptions frustrate you the most? What insights would you add?

Send me an email at the address below, and I will respond or place your questions with my answers here.

Talk soon,
Jeff Shiver, CMRP

If you have problems in the fields of maintenance, reliability, planning and scheduling, MRO storerooms, or leadership as examples, please contact Jeff Shiver with your question(s) here.