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Lean Leaders: Improving SFUSD Warehouse Services for the Safety of Students and Staff

Every year, like clockwork, the two weeks before the start of the SFUSD school year meant an influx of warehouse requests from teachers and school staff for SFUSD's Warehouse Team.

However, these two weeks before the start of the school year are intended to be reserved for priority annual projects, like transferring critical supplies and equipment to the District's Special Education program classrooms, and delivering new curriculum to sites.

The SFUSD Warehouse Team currently services over 100 sites all across the City and County of San Francisco, each site consisting of numerous rooms, with multiple staff who may submit warehouse requests. So what do you do when your Team's request queue jumps from 35 requests to 135 requests?

With requests piling up, this also meant that furniture and other classroom equipment were piling up in classrooms, hallways, and other spaces causing potential fire hazards. Realizing that this was not sustainable for their Team, Warehouse Supervisor, Lloyd Nabong, and Warehouse Lead, Dan Melendez, joined PPI's Fall 2023 Lean Leaders Cohort to address critical bottlenecks in completing warehouse requests and revamp the system to actually work for their customers and their Team. Check out our interview with Lloyd and Dan below!

PPI: Can you describe the problem you were trying to solve?

Lloyd Nabong & Dan Melendez: Our main problem was to get control of one of our busiest times of the year, and to figure out how we can set rules, and communicate better with our customers to prevent any chaos during those two weeks.

PPI: Thinking about your project from start to finish, walk me through your experience of creating your process map, identifying bottlenecks, and creating solutions.

LN & DM: Creating our process map was difficult at first. We didn't really know how to pick apart the issue. But after a few sessions with our coach Justine Hinderliter, we were able to boil things down, and really find the good and bad. At first we would just jump to a solution and not find the root cause, but after some training and coaching sessions we learned to dive deep into the problem, and really figure out what's going, and THEN try to fix that. Once you know what the root cause is, the solutions come easily!

PPI: What was most valuable for you going through Lean Leaders?

LN & DM: I'd say the tools and exercises throughout the course really changed the way we look at work now. Breaking down an issue between value added and non-value added is something so simple, yet something we've never done or thought about. It can change your whole perspective on things!

PPI: What solutions have you implemented, or are currently working on, and what kind of improvements or changes have you seen as a result?

LN & DM: We won't fully know if our new solutions will work until this summer. But we have already seen a change in behavior from our customers with some of the new guidelines we put into place. Change--in a good way!

A new guideline we implemented after Lean Leaders is that our customers must properly label all items for furniture removal. The Warehouse Team generally let it slide if items were not labeled, but not enforcing a standard enabled our customers to never use labels because our Team would still pick it up. Now we're very firm on following guidelines, which has led to our customers properly labeling items for the Team to remove.

PPI: How did Lean Leaders change the way you approach your work?

LN & DM: It's made us more mindful in the way we approach our work, and more patient with projects. We've learned to identify value added, and non-value added steps in our work process, and use that to work smarter, not harder. Overall, the Lean Leaders training has been impactful! We now look at any issues we run into differently. We now get to the root cause of the problems we're fixing and start there. We're not just relying on quick fixes because approaching problems like that never really solves the issues and they always come back.

PPI: What advice do you have for others to get the most out of Lean Leaders?

LN & DM: If you don't know what's going on during a Lean Leader exercise, just go with it. At the end, you will learn something; your third eye will open and you'll know how to apply it!

Are you ready to level up your problem-solving skills and make a lasting impact in your organization? Join us for our next cohort of Lean Leaders - an immersive, multi-day experience where you'll learn practical problem-solving tools derived from Lean, Six Sigma, Design Thinking, and Agile methodologies.

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