A Publication of WTVP

Lying half-awake in my dentist’s chair recently, I reflected on how much had changed in the years I had been visiting Dr. Scott Anderson and how outdated the notion of a waiting room has become. It got me thinking about what he and my general physician are doing right and what lessons manufacturers might learn from their incredible efficiency.

As is customary, I found myself in the tooth cleaner’s midst after a mere minute or so of waiting time. Back in the day, I recall visiting the dentist with my mom and killing off 30 to 40 minutes playing with toys or fidgeting in the seat trying to watch a TV with no cable. Of course, at the time, I was petrified of the dentist, so the extra time was welcome.

These days, I find myself getting more and more perturbed by the audacity of my doctor and dentist’s productivity and commitment to customer service. Typically, I walk in the office, do a quick check-in and head for the magazine rack to look for a few specialty pubs to peruse. I settle in, looking forward to a few minutes of quiet time to enjoy an interesting article or two. Not anymore.

In fifteen-plus years of visits to my doctor, Dean Gravlin, I can literally say that my rump has never stayed in a seat for more than two minutes, maximum. No, I am not exaggerating. Early on, I brought the magazines with me, certain that I would be in the “holding cell” to which I was summoned long enough to get at least halfway through an article. These days, I don’t bother, as Dr. Gravlin appears in mere minutes. He’s efficient, epitomizing speed and purpose, with little wasted effort.

The doctors’ techs move with remarkable precision and seem to have no idle time. Their rooms are set up to move you through the process, much like parts in a humming modern factory. Their facilities are clean, their tools neatly arranged and labeled, their billing and checkout processes seamless. They run as lean an office environment as any I can imagine.

So, what’s the lesson for manufacturing? As anyone who’s spent time in an office setting can attest, inefficiency is often the scourge of the typical white-collar environment. By some estimates, administrative tasks make up to 80 percent of a manufacturer’s cost of doing business. Eliminating wastefulness from administrative and office functions can also boost profit margins and help transform a company into a total lean—and highly efficient—operation.

For all of their potential value, however, lean initiatives are not without challenges. Companies often report resistance from employees. And as with any cultural change, implementation is an ongoing process—results won’t happen overnight. To make the jump to lean, management support is critical. There must also be a company-wide understanding of the process—what lean is, why it’s needed and precisely how it will work—along with detailed steps for implementation and specific ways to measure progress.

I’d love to ask Dr. Anderson and Dr. Gravlin how they have figured this out, but, of course, there wouldn’t be time. If you happen upon this article in one of their offices, you might quietly slip IBI under your jacket…and read it at home. iBi