We were working with our call centre client and looking at the task of processing claims. Unfortunately, in Ireland, many claims in this particular sector are submitted on paper forms. Our task was to map the process of approving these claims. We broke the process into small element steps and were in the process of timing a number of claims with the claim approver, Jenny. As is the norm with paperwork applications, we encountered a number of errors and missing information. This required Jenny to either make a phonecall, write an email or send a letter by post.

It was while Jenny was sending a letter that the absence of a reliable supply system came to light. Jenny was out of A4 envelopes and apologised as she now had to walk about 100 metres to the stationary store to get some more envelopes. Amazingly, in an office of over 200 staff, she came back empty handed and red-faced. “There are no A4 envelopes in the store – they’re due in tomorrow!”.

Luckily, Clare overheard the conversation and came to Jenny’s rescue. “You should have asked me. I’ve plenty under my desk” and she produced a pile of A4 envelopes. Later on, Paul, who sat beside Jenny, returned from a break. Jenny told Paul about the embarrassing episode with the envelopes (which increased the process step timing). “That wouldn’t have happened if I had been here” said Paul. “That has happened to me before – I always keep a store of envelopes under my desk”.

The thought occurred that there were probably more envelopes in that office than would be consumed in months. Anyone who had lost time in the past had now created their own ‘store’ in the absence of a reliable system. As soon as those envelopes come in tomorrow, Jenny was going to create her own store.

The solution was to implement a 2-bin kanban system. As most of the staff needed to print letters before using the envelopes, the 2-bin kanban ‘stores’ were located at each printer and serviced twice a day by the stationary suppliers.