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Luna USA Field Trip: Kanban ice-cream – the case for limited whip?

By May 25, 2012No Comments

In the delightful Hayes Valley in San Francisco, you will find a myriad of little design shops, clothing stores and cafes. Cheek by jowl 3 storey houses line the streets, and with lovely parks and a 20 minute walk to the city, it is the chosen neighbourhood of the new San Francisco dot com generation and their offspring.

Which leads to an interesting business problem on a sunny Spring day. The best ice-cream in Hayes Valley comes from an ice-cream stand in a mini-park half way down the main street. And they make their ice-cream ON DEMAND. Yep, on the spot, from fresh ingredients.

‘Why the hell would you do that?’ I can hear you asking! Well, it is novel (it took the inventor years to perfect the process and the machines); the customers love it (kids marvel at the dry ice-powered machines and the smoke coming off them); there’s no wasted production; and it tastes great.

Four operators manage 4 machines, making the cones and small tubs of icecream in 4 flavours – 3 standard, and one special of the day. Each fresh batch fills 2-3 smallish tubs at most.

Now what is amazing is that as people wait for their ice-cream, there is hardly any whining, whinging, tears, eye-rolling, skirt-pulling, or toys thrown from (adult) prams at all. Everyone seems pretty calm, even though the queue is 20 people deep, and the waiting area is full. And we are waiting for ICE-CREAM!!!

Nobody is hassling the staff as to where their order has gone, and people are adjusting their expectations with sanguine anticipation.

How does this miracle of customer service occur?

Here’s their high-tech system – did you spot it in the first photo?

Four swim-lanes for flavours. Different coloured cards for flavours. The order written on the card. Names go on cards. Customers can read the cards and see where their order is up to in the queue – they don’t need to interrupt anyone to ask where their ice-cream is at!

Customers can adjust their order at the start based on trading off a smaller queue with a choice of flavour. Want it quick? Choose vanilla right now.

So the next time your customers are behaving like 3 year olds at an ice-cream parlour, check to see if your agile board is as good as Smitten’s.

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