July 15, 2009

Keeping Core

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:17 am by lindaslongview

JambaJuiceJamba Juice is a frozen fruit smoothie franchise that has consistent taste, predictable service (both timing and quality), hip marketing, and friendly staff.  As a process engineer, I have always marveled at the “process line” that Jamba Juice employs.  It is simple, efficient, and allows for excellence in quality in pace and accuracy (so long as the vast majority of products being sold are smoothies).

Jamba Juice uses a register station, a prep station, a blending station, a finishing station, and a washing station.  The “line” works because each smoothie gets a paper ticket with the smoothie identity (product) and the purchaser identity.  The paper ticket sticks to the blender carafe when moist, so information flows along the line with each carafe.  As the tickets flow, carafes are prepped and pushed down the line, creating an excellent First-In-First-Out (FIFO) process line.  The “line” is usually well staffed to ensure flow through the series of stations and the register station can be used regulate flow.  If needed, they can reduce the flow momentarily by ceasing to take orders when they get too backed up.  It is easy to see your order progress in the line-up, making the wait very predictable.

I also like Jamba Juice because they are “hip.”  They use colorful advertising, clean humor, and they have a “secret smoothie menu” that appeals to teens (my kids like the “Pink Star”).

When I went for a smoothie today (it was hot outside), I found that Jamba Juice had added many new food products to their menu.  I watched sadly as the once simple process gave way to complexity and FIFO flow was no longer working.  The woman in front of me in line received only one of her two smoothies.  Even though she muttered about the error (such that I knew), she was not assertive in requesting a correction from the staff.  On the other hand, when I observed that one of my smoothies had NOT been prepared at the prep station, I spoke up immediately, because it was clear to me that the new way the paper tickets and carafes flowed led to errors and a loss of system capacity.

Indeed the squeaky wheel (me) got the grease (my order was fixed ASAP).  I left advising the woman ahead of me to speak up, even though I knew that more expediting would continue to cost process capacity.  They had became caught in an eternal expedite situation – as each person found an error in their order, “flow” work ceased and “expedite” work filled the capacity of the staff.   The line backed up more and more because complexity unintentionally increased the rate of error and no mechanism was added to compensate.

I lament the loss of the niche excellence that Jamba Juice once commanded.  I am saddened because they have lost their core to the unintended consequence of what probably seemed like an “improvement” (revenue?).  Maybe only this location was duly affected with the addition of food to the menu and maybe they can create a corrective action, but I am not confident.

Jamba Juice failed to see the long view value of their core competence from a customer’s perspective:  consistent fruit smoothie preparation (tasty!), FIFO process (predictable timing), and high order quality (order accuracy).  It is the experience that has value. The unintended consequence of their change compromised this core value.    As my friend Greg (a marketing guy) points out, “Ask your customers why they buy your product and why they buy your product from you and not one of your competitors. You will no doubt be amazed at the answer.”  In summary, understand your core and the potential for unintended consequences from your customer’s perspective.

Do you know what your customers think your core competency is?

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3 Comments »

  1. brenda said,

    oh comeon.. jamba is amazing.. so you had one time experience.. i go there everyday and their service is amazing.. lets be balanced here…

    • lindaslongview said,

      Thank you for taking time to leave me a comment.

      I am glad to hear that your experience at Jamba Juice continues to be good for you. Perhaps I was not clear enough about which new food items have added additional complexity? Specifically, JJ has added pre-made salads, pre-made wraps, and has added pizza-ish flatbreads that require staff prep causing new levels of multi-tasking. Perhaps those new menu items have not yet reached your location?

      It is certainly possible that my negative experience was an isolated incident that I merely attribute to the changes, I acknowledge that. However, I do not think so. The addition of complexity to any process, especially something that requires more multi-tasking without a commensurate increase in resources, always degrades process performance either in capacity or increased error rate. This incident provided me another long view lesson that I felt was worth sharing –> understand your core and the potential for unintended consequences from your customer’s perspective.

      I hope you continue to enjoy my blog and learn along with me. Thanks for visiting.

  2. Your critique of JJ and their “choice changes” reminds me to ask my customers about what they want and need. Oh, that was the point??
    I don’t want any unintended consequences.
    Thanks for that, d


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