System? Process? Whazzat?

“A System comprises of Machine, Process and People.” Mr. R

Recently we visited a famed bakery to buy some snacks. It was one of the larger outlets of the bakery and since we went there after office, we had our bags with us. We got stopped at the entrance for a security check and had to deposit our bags at the baggage counter.

The bakery had a very different style of billing. Unlike other bakeries where the food counter first gives the customer the bill for their items, and the customer is able to collect the items once the bill is paid at the cash counter; here the food counter would pack the food items, stick barcode labels on the parcels, and the customer could directly take the items to the cash counter, get it billed and walk out. They had given so much thought to their process, that they had even priced all the products in multiples of 5 and kept chocolates worth Rs 5 at the cash counter to be returned to any customer who didn’t have the requisite change.

We got our items packed and went to the cash counter for billing. There were two people at the billing counter – one was scanning the bar code and the other was packing the individual parcels into a bag. The packing person was in such a hurry that he picked up one parcel and put it into the bag even before the bar code was scanned. Neither the scanning person nor the packing person bother to notice that there were 3 parcels which were packed whereas the bill was only for 2 items. Our bill was reduced by half since they missed to bill the most expensive item of the lot.

Overall for the bakery the value of that item may have been nominal, but my point is that a system, an organisation is all about people people people. One may have the best machinery, the best processes – but in the end of the day its people who are going to run it. One may not have the best processes or machinery but may have an efficient system because the people running the system know what are the critical aspects and focus on it. How effectively the system or the organisation runs therefore comes down to intangible terms like “culture” or the indefinable “Toyota Way.” Its all about how you handle your people.


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