Lean Manufacturing Tools for Customer Service

The customer

Coregas was founded in 1976 and is now part of Wesfarmers Industrial and Safety Group. With over 220 employees across seven locations, they have grown to be the largest Australian owned industrial, medical and specialty gas company.

Quality and Service are central to everything the team at Coregas do, they recognise that people play an essential part in achieving company objectives and are committed to developing a high-performance workforce. 

Excellent Outcomes at a Glance

  • Excess paperwork reduced by 40%
  • More efficient invoicing process
  • 95% reduction in credit notes
  • Leadership Development 

The challenge

Coregas had previously undertaken a Lean Manufacturing program throughout the plant which meant all factory staff were trained by Corporate Partners in Competitive Systems & Practices.

Lean offers a variety of tools that can be utilised across an entire business and Coregas were so pleased with the productivity and financial savings they achieved in the factory, they were eager to maximise the effectiveness of Lean across the enterprise.

The solution – Lean Manufacturing

Staff were enrolled in the Certificate III in Competitive Systems and Practices program, in the sections that previously weren’t included in the Lean program. The Customer Service team were eager to get started and began working with Corporate Partners around 18 months ago.

Belinda Higham the Customer Service Manager led the project team and has been delighted with the results. “The training is really effective because it’s customised to our needs and our work practices,” said Ms Higham “The Corporate Partners trainer really focused on understanding our issues then giving us the tools to resolve them, which means we will be able to maintain the results and continue to improve our processes.”

The tools

Corporate Partners introduced the customer service team to some of the Lean tools including Mini Business Teams, A3 Problem Solving, 4 Fields Mapping and Visual Workplace Management. Armed with these new tools the Customer Service team began holding meetings daily to discuss issues and track their progress against their goals.

The team created an issues register where all of the issues raised by staff were tracked and given to a staff member to resolve.

“Our staff have really embraced Lean, they now feel they have a voice and are empowered to find solutions,” said Ms Higham.

“Providing staff with a mechanism to be heard and drive change has really transformed their thinking, they are more solution focused and confident in their roles,” said Ms Higham. Employee engagement has increased since the program began and Individual KPI’s have also improved, they are now ahead of the benchmark. Staff are much happier, teamwork has improved and Coregas have seen a reduction in sick leave.

Lean in action

The customer service team recently utilised their Lean skills to resolve an on-going issue with customer credits. Due to delays receiving invoices from a third party delivery company there were often duplicate or incorrect invoices sent to customers. This upset customers and also meant time was wasted crediting and re-issuing invoices.

A project was established to tackle the problem. To begin the customer service team put all of the issues on a whiteboard, everyone was involved and had a voice in outlining the issues.

“Our team is working with customers every day, they hear their frustrations so are well placed to outline the problems and come up with solutions,” said Ms Higham.

Once all of the issues were outlined the team utilised Four Fields Mapping to document the process. This allowed them to understand the entire process and examine the various tasks involved. They could see how other departments interact with the team during the process, which gave them a deeper understanding of the business.

The power of Lean was demonstrated when a key element of the process was identified that involved an external delivery company. The supplier had their own process which culminated in invoices being sent to Coregas at the end of the month. This was the only notification Coregas received of the order being fulfilled. To drive efficiency the customer service team needed the external supplier to change their process and notify Coregas immediately after deliveries were made.

Corporate Partners helped to manage the planning meetings with the supplier, but Belinda Higham was able to drive the meetings based on the skills she had gained during her training. “We were thrilled to be able to work with our supplier to improve our processes, this required a change for them in their process and also needed an investment in technology,” said Ms Higham.

Based on the work that the Customer Service Team had done they were able to show the supplier by changing the process they would get paid faster and enquiries would be reduced.

“It was a win-win situation for us a both, the tools and skills we learnt through the training really made the changes possible,” said Ms Higham.

Summary

The Competitive Systems and Practices training has been a huge success within the Customer Service Team at Coregas. “Giving our employees a voice and the opportunity to make changes that drive efficiency and reduce errors has been beneficial to our customer service,” said Ms Higham.