Lean in Action at the Town of Oakville

Lean in Action at the Town of Oakville

Building Services process review aims to improve customer service and workflow

Continuous improvement and innovation are central to the town’s day-to-day business activities. As the town works to enhance its culture of continuous improvement, Lean methodology is playing large part in helping town staff find new and innovative approaches to service delivery. One area where Lean has had big impact is in the Building Services department, where a significant increase in building permits and inspections has created a number of challenges for the team.

“The number one issue for the department is not being able to issue building permits in a timely manner,” explains John Tutert, director of Building Services. “A lot of it has to do with volume, which you can’t change, so looking at how we can make processes more efficient has been our focus.”

How did the team embark on their process review journey? “First we had to identify the pressure points that staff and customers are experiencing,” said John.

With the help of Dillon Consulting, along with Steve Babcock, project manager in Strategic Business Services, and staff champions within Building Services, a framework was developed for gathering feedback from staff and customers.

Using a tool called Mentimeter, staff had the opportunity to share what challenges they were experiencing.

Customers gave their honest feedback through a quick online survey. From the survey, six key themes were identified and a cross-section of builders met with staff to discuss these pressure points in more detail.

Staff champions also supported the review by keeping their colleagues updated, collecting their feedback, and sharing ideas for “quick win” changes.

“Ongoing communication is critical, and having staff champions and a dedicated person to support this review has been a big help,” said John. “There is a high level of staff engagement and enthusiasm.”

A number of those smaller changes have already improved the permit process, resulting in a more manageable workflow and enhanced customer service. Now that the recommendations report has arrived from the consultant, John is confident that the process review will yield meaningful and sustainable results to support the department’s goals.

Process review highlights:

Business Process Review using Lean— what’s it all about?

  • Review processes to better manage workflow and staff workload
  • Enhance customer service and staff engagement
  • Reduce turnaround time for issuing permits

Staff-led quick wins

  • Dedicated workspace created away from the front counter for Building Service Representatives to work without interruptions
  • Queue system to manage flow of customers at the front counter
  • Better signage at the front counter to direct customers
  • Improved file application approval process

What customers said

The customer service survey results identified six areas of focus: electronic plans review, inspections, re-submission of applications, customer service and communication, process consistency, and other department approvals.

Long-term outlook

Dillon Consulting has provided a report for the department’s consideration outlining an action plan over an 18- to 24-month timeframe.

For more information, email steve.babcock@oakville.ca

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