Nature’s Select of Northern Colorado Takes Lean to Pet Food Delivery
“This is only the first of many improvement projects we plan to undertake. There are many more opportunities for us to become more efficient and reach our strategic goals much faster.” – Jon Harlan, Owner of Nature’s Select of Northern Colorado
Nature’s Select of Northern Colorado (Nature’s Select of NoCo) is a family owned small business based in Longmont, Colorado, that delivers super premium pet foods directly to each customer’s door. They offer a full line of bagged and canned foods for dogs, cats, and horses. Currently, they collect orders by telephone, email, and through their website. They can accommodate automatic deliveries of virtually any frequency for their customers. Although they offer super premium pet foods and free delivery, their pricing is actually lower than comparable foods available in traditional pet stores.
Jon and Diane Harlan, the owners of Nature’s Select of NoCo, are currently growing their business from start up only 20 months ago. Thus, building a solid lean foundation for their business is extremely important to support future growth and continued strong performance.
Although Nature’s Select of NoCo is a customer service centric business, they lacked the business tools to adequately process and track their customer orders with precise control and accuracy. This lack of control meant the owners had to waste time looking up orders, identifying inaccuracies, and correcting mistakes – all as a form of quality inspection required to maintain a stellar record of customer satisfaction. With the business growing at almost 100% in the last 12 months, the amount of time necessary for processing wasteful business tasks was taking a toll on the morale and impacting time that would be better spent growing the business.
Seeking to eliminate the time wasted to process and track customer orders, Jon and Diane challenged Brent Rollman to help them gain control of their order fulfillment process.
Brent enrolled in the Certified Lean Master (CLM) program as a means to learn and apply the lean tools that would improve the order fulfillment process. Working as a team Brent and Jon created a current state value steam map from order entry through customer delivery and ending with collection of accounts receivable. They then identified the waste and designed a very visual and efficient future state value stream map. This future state included a visually controlled filing system for work in progress that leveraged a pull signal using customer payments. It also included a simple tracking process to eliminate the time wasted searching for customer orders, delivery information, and payment history.
“Being part of the process to improve our business processes was a huge learning opportunity for me.” – Jon Harlan, Owner of Nature’s Select of Northern Colorado
By deploying the streamlined process defined by the future state value steam map, order processing time has been cut in half during the first 3 weeks following implementation. Jon and Diane were so impressed with the immediate results that they asked Brent apply continuous process improvement techniques to make the process even more robust. Brent worked with Jon to assess the new process and find incremental improvements that further simplified the process.
With the additional improvements to the order fulfillment process, Jon spends about 75% less time processing paperwork and more time growing his business. The value of freeing up significant time for the owner of a small business is almost impossible to measure. Just think about the number of small businesses that fail because the owner is too busy working in the business and not working on the business.