The Lab's methodology has produced consistent, guaranteed results for over two decades. Browse selected case studies below and contact us for more.
Project Sponsor : Senior Vice President
Self-funding non-technology improvement effort for the global finance organization to support deployment of a new automated general ledger system [by others].
After installing a sophisticated firm-wide Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] technology with an integrated Finance capability, ClientCo’s CFO failed to see the promised breakthrough in operating performance gains. An internal Six Sigma team contacted The Lab to identify non-technology improvements and rapidly improve performance.
The Lab began with an eight week Phase I analysis of ClientCo’s entire North American Finance group organization and operating processes. The Lab’s standardized improvement templates helped pinpoint more than 275 activity level improvements. Most [80%] required no technology change [Class I Improvements]. Roughly 25% of these could be implemented in 1-2 months. The remaining Class I improvements were all completed within six months from start of implementation. Examples:
Needless complexity in allocations consumed 30-50% of Finance staff capacity with corrections, clarifications and on-the-fly re-training of data submitters. The new ERP technology increased an already bloated chart of accounts by an additional 40%. Account names and purposes were inconsistent and poorly documented across business groups, locations, and facilities.
The vast majority of costly staff time [85%] was devoted to the lowest value activities: Gathering and scrubbing data [65%], generating and distributing reports [20%]. Only 15% of capacity was devoted to the tasks most requested by business units – financial analysis. The proliferation of ad hoc and “one off” reports was a major root cause.
The cycle time for finalization and formal approval of operating budgets extended slightly over half of the fiscal year at ClientCo. Even after this arduous process, at least 20% of budgets were significantly off plan with minimal quantitative insight or justification regarding the causes. Contributing factors: Over 80% of underlying financial assumptions were documented as incorrect at the start; only 20% of the budget incorporated unit cost and productivity data; 4-5 budget meeting iterations were considered “normal” for finalization.
The self-finding implementation effort reduced the low value tasks by over 60%. Within six months, all project costs were recouped. At month 12, payback exceeded 2.5X. Improvements were more than 80% applicable to European operations.
Project Sponsor : Global Head, Human Resources
Non-technology, self-funding improvement initiative to create a worldwide HR shared services center, improve efficiency, reduce costs and accelerate new worldwide HR technology deployment (by others).
ClientCo, a global, money center bank with over $2 trillion in assets continually strives to improve operating performance across the 60 countries in which it operates. Senior executives within the ClientCo Human Resources organization sought major cost savings and service improvement in North America and Europe to coincide with its global deployment of PeopleSoft technology.
ClientCo internal teams worked for a year with a global technology integrator to both prepare for deployment and identify additional improvements across all major HR operating groups: Recruiting & Hiring, HR Generalists, Compensation, Benefits Admin, Training & Development, Payroll & Pension.
Although the technology deployment was on track, both senior management and internal team leaders felt that significantly more savings and service improvement were feasible.
Within 8 weeks, The Lab’s wall-to-wall, template-based analysis of HR operations identified over 400 additional non-technology improvements. Roughly 85% of these were consolidated into a six month, self-funding implementation work plan targeting simultaneous cost reduction and increased business unit satisfaction. Examples:
Numerous “one-off ” procedures existed across multiple business units and locations, generating needless complexity, extending hiring cycles and causing cost variances exceeding 30% per hire.
Demands from business units varied significantly, were rarely documented and service level agreements were inconsistently implemented. Less than 40% of the Generalists possessed the skills needed to operate in such an ad hoc environment. Improvements helped stratify tasks, smooth demand patterns and increase business unit satisfaction.
Prior acquisitions and high levels of business unit autonomy created a costly, needlessly complex set of over 140 separate compensation plans. Improvements standardized and consolidated common administrative tasks without revising the terms of the plans.
The Lab helped ClientCo teams execute a six month implementation plan generating over $30 million in savings and increased business unit satisfaction levels by more than 25%.
Self-funding, non-technology call center operations improvement initiative for a consumer loan operation serving U.S. consumers with North American and Asian operations. Objectives: Improve service; reduce costs; simplify processes.
ClientCo is a premier U.S. provider of student loans, with over $3.5 billion in annual revenue.
Reacting to market and regulatory conditions, senior management challenged all business areas, including its Contact Center, to cut costs over 20%, without adversely impacting service levels. At the same time, ClientCo’s Call Center has been required to respond to a 30% increase in call volume.
The Phase I effort (eight weeks) analyzed all aspects of call center operations across two call center sites. Over 250, activity-level, non-technology improvements were identified and incorporated into a five month, self-funding implementation work plan. Examples:
Inbound callers sought a variety of resolutions from ClientCo, each of which had specific pros and cons. Analysis of the impacts of each resolution, preceded redesign of the protocols to direct borrowers to the most appropriate repayment option to maximize ClientCo’s cash flow and minimize unnecessary forbearances.
Legacy operations had inefficient methods for responding to surges or declines in call volumes, reducing the ability to manage quality and cost. Process changes allowed the Call Center to simplify practices and more effectively respond to call volumes.
Gaps in authority among call center operators hindered first call resolution and caused unnecessary transfers. Rationalizing operator authority improved call resolution time and customer satisfaction and minimized transfers.
Interdepartmental transfers with servicing departments – from both directions – was inefficient, causing delays, risking errors, and negatively impacting customer satisfaction. Process changes addressed transfer rules and accountabilities, decreasing the rate of IDTs.
After the Phase I effort, The Lab worked with ClientCo’s Call Center’s internal teams to implement the self-funding non-technology improvements and coordinate streamlined business processes to reduce costs while maintaining service effectiveness and accommodating volume increases.
Project Sponsor : EVP, Product Development
Self-funding, non-technology process improvement effort for the worldwide product development organization. The effort targeted standardization and simplification to increase the benefits from a recently completed Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) technology deployment.
When competitors began to make inroads with new products, ClientCo senior management decided to improve its own Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) capabilities by deploying a leading PLM software application. Three improvement goals were targeted: shorter development cycles, reduced development costs, and increased control of formulas/ingredients. Soon after the technology was launched, cycle times and costs increased. Decreases in formula-control capabilities created issues with production plants and external regulatory authorities.
The Lab was engaged to review the PD processes for one worldwide division, and over 200 improvements were identified during the Phase I analytical effort. While all improvements were PLM-related, only 20% were linked to the new technology and the IT deployment approach utilized. The remaining opportunities 80% were independent of any technology. Examples of both:
The deployment team chose to drive PD process improvement through implementation of the new technology. However, existing manual PD processes were needlessly complex and ad hoc. Failure to simplify and standardize prior to deployment created costly variation and burdensome business rules as the new PLM application was inefficiently shaped by the existing process.
Numerous tactical mis-steps failed to avoid common deployment pitfalls. Example: Insufficient investment in pilot testing prior to firm-wide rollout. Although parts of the organization overcame significant systems obstacles, no procedure existed to transfer these best practices.
Although the IT group acknowledged the essential role of end-user input for successful configuration and deployment, “non-users” played a dominant role in the requirements development process (e.g., Safety, Regulatory, Control, Compliance). Result: Unrealistic demands on day-to-day users—cumbersome controls, excessive reporting steps, inflexible linear sign-offs.
The new application was selected on the basis of its existing “prefabbed” capabilities, business rules and functionality for NPD processes. However, existing processes were not sufficiently documented and aligned with the new technology prior to deployment.
The five-month implementation effort targeted an overall cycle-time reduction of 30% and a cost reduction of 10%.
Project Sponsor : SVP, Technology, Manufacturing & Procurement
Non-technology, self-funding improvement initiative for ClientCo Americas: lean manufacturing, process improvement and management practices (1,000 employees).
ClientCo, one of the world’s largest tire and rubber companies, produces tires
in over 50 facilities throughout the Americas and has more than 50,000 employees. As a company dedicated to continuous improvement, ClientCo decided to challenge
one of its most effective facilities to target a 10% increase in throughput with its existing equipment base on top of the ongoing plant expansion.
A management team, led by ClientCo’s Senior Vice President of Technology, Manufacturing and Procurement selected The Lab to analyze the tire production facility of more than 1,000 employees. During a five-week period, The Lab’s team, using proprietary manufacturing operations templates identified 350 non-technology improvements across the production facility. Analysis of these activity-level improvement opportunities revealed the following systemic impediments:
The Lab found that many employees lacked clear expectations for throughput and productivity. Furthermore, many targets, especially procedure enforcement, lacked clear accountability. The ‘First-in-First-out’ inventory management rule for all work-in-process materials, for example, was routinely ignored, thus generating controllable waste.
The plant exhibited significant opportunity to improve cross-departmental communication and coordination. Operations consistently failed to have machines available for preventative maintenance as scheduled. Upstream departments regularly failed to deliver the right materials at the right time to downstream departments, and downstream departments failed to inform upstream departments of changes in their production needs. Furthermore, individual operators adjusted their production queue according to personal preference without regard for the plant’s overall need.
The plant had created production capacity model tools for each production department, but the models included excessive non-production time and overly conservative production rates that severely underestimated the plant’s true capacity.
Lost production tracking tools in some areas tended to track reason codes in categories that were too broad to be useful. In other areas such tracking was non-existent.
The support areas – Maintenance, Quality, Material Handling – had a complete lack of work-to-time standards, without which they were incapable of managing individual or team performance to limit cost and improve plant effectiveness.
ClientCo engaged The Lab to lead an improvement effort that targeted a 15% boost in the facility’s throughput.
Self-funding, non-technology effort for the centralized policyholder services staff serving ClientCo’s global market base.
As the leader in personal lines insurance for high-net-worth individuals, ClientCo focuses diligently on service performance to maintain some of the industry’s highest policyholder renewal rates. After deployment of a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) technology, ClientCo executives came to appreciate the value of non-technology process improvement and periodically engaged The Lab to assist its internal Six Sigma teams’ efforts. The Policyholder Services initiative was launched in this manner.
ClientCo prioritizes factors that influence policyholders’ perceptions of service quality. Billing errors generate the most negative perceptions, reduce renewal rates and are the most difficult to remediate. The Lab was engaged to evaluate the PS/Renewals operations.
Over the course of an eight-week Phase I analytical effort, The Lab and ClientCo’s internal improvement team identified almost 200 activity-level improvements. While 30% required significant technology investment, 140 were near-term [6 months or less], non-technology, lean, Class I® improvements. The Lab consolidated these into a self-funding implementation work plan. Examples:
While ClientCo scored well against the routine expectations of policy holders, numerous opportunities were identified from external competitive benchmarking to go beyond these levels: Additional discounts for early premium payment; more “reasonable” payment terms, i.e., closer to competitors’ terms.
Compared to competitors’, ClientCo’s inbound NIGO [not in good order] rate averaged 50% higher. Numerous, non-technology improvements were identified to close this gap: Standardize the numerous templates on file within field sales that generate conflicting information for customers, renewals and new business applications.
Items received in good order were processed in a standardized fashion and employee productivity variance averaged <15%. NIGO was processed in a more ad hoc manner and productivity variance routinely exceeded 60%. Improvements helped standardize NIGO remediation tasks, streamline rework, and reduce productivity variance.
The six-month implementation effort helped ClientCo’s lean improvement effort deliver quantified improvement benefits beginning six weeks after launch.
Self-funding, non-technology analysis of a national retail bank in the U.S. to improve customer service, increase sales uptime in branches, reduce costs and simplify processes.
ClientCo is a national retail bank in the U.S. with over $25B in annual revenues. Senior management sought to shift administration and clerical work from sales people in the branches to back office functions and thereby increase sales uptime in the branches. They engaged The Lab to analyze the current-state processes and identify opportunities for simplification and task realignment.
The eight-week Phase I effort analyzed all aspects of processing a product purchased in the retail banks, including personal deposit accounts, mortgages, credit cards and loans. Support areas, such as the customer contact center and the internal contact center, and compliance functions, such as fraud and anti-money laundering (AML), also fell within the project’s scope. The Lab identified more than 210 non-technology improvements and incorporated them into a six-month, self-funding implementation work plan. Examples:
The percentage of time that a sales person in the branch spent in face-to-face interactions with customers was low, in part due to complex and lengthy document processing and compliance tasks that were completed in the branches.
Service levels existed for various departments across ClientCo but each service level was maintained separately and there was little understanding across departments how long a product would take to process. Sales people were unable to give accurate estimates to customers for how long a process would take and wasted time each day seeking updates.
The processing of loans and other products at ClientCo did not always have a rational sequence for how and when each task was performed. For example, fraud would identify accounts for rejection days before the anti-money laundering team would complete its document analysis, leading to wasted effort by the anti-money laundering processors and the retail branch employees. Redesigning the process steps and improving communication among departments reduced this wasted effort.
Several technology-focused improvement projects were underway at ClientCo, but the timeline for implementation was more than 18 months. The Lab identified employees and areas with internal best practices for negotiating the limitations of the current system. These workarounds were shared across the company to speed up processing before the new technology was ready for implementation.
Following the Phase I effort, the Lab worked with internal ClientCo teams to conduct an even deeper analysis of the anti-money laundering processes at the bank. The retail bank improvements were completed by internal ClientCo teams.
Project Sponsor : Senior Managing Director
Non-technology, self-funding operations improvement projects to support customer service improvement, operating gains, new service offering development and new technology deployment.
ClientCo is one of the world’s three largest and most prestigious investment banks. Its prime brokerage group is a world leader, providing a full line of services for hedge funds and other specialty traders which range in size from the industry’s largest to its smallest boutiques.
Over a period of several years, The Lab has helped ClientCo in its effort to dominate this highly-competitive segment within the broker/dealer industry. Our projects cover the spectrum from basic operations and customer service improvement to assistance with new offering development. Examples:
The complex needs of even the smallest hedge funds create significant challenges for account installation. Rapid, error-free account setup is one of several factors which influence hedge funds’ selection of their prime broker. Consequently, prime brokerage service providers compete intensely along this dimension, promoting their capabilities to rapidly set up new clients, create new accounts and handle the newest products. For ClientCo, The Lab helped standardize and streamline every aspect of this complex process, which spanned the full breadth of ClientCo’s enterprise-wide product, service, and technology capabilities.
The Lab documented over 120 operational processes – from routine, morning reconciliation tasks through account termination covering the entire product line: equities, fixed income, derivatives, synthetics, etc. Our activity-level maps delivered over 350 non-technology improvements which cut the existing levels of waste and re-work by over one-half. Operating performance metrics were installed to deliver continuous improvement gains and keep low-value tasks from returning.
Although service requirements and trading characteristics vary extensively by customer, The Lab helped standardize and document hundreds of work activities, transactions, and job tasks. Our “placemats” provide simple user-friendly tools to quickly orient front line employees on the scope of their responsibilities, productivity goals and service level commitments. The Lab developed organizational capacity models that forecast staffing needs and eliminate downtime.
The Lab worked both independently and alongside various ClientCo internal improvement groups: Six Sigma, IT, etc., to achieve self-funding implementation in six months or less.
Organization-wide, non-technology, self-funding improvement initiative for the Commercial Health Plan Division of a national processor of Medicare payments (900 employees).
ClientCo, a 5,000+ employee diversified provider of health plan products serves 4.5 million beneficiaries and processes over $5 billion in benefit payments annually. Despite its highly regarded, broad base of network providers and products, competitors were making inroads in the group markets (both large and small segments) where ClientCo traditionally dominated. To regain market momentum, significant cost reduction and service improvement were required quickly and simultaneously.
The ClientCo Senior Executive Leadership Team engaged The Lab to conduct an 8 week analysis to identify improvements and design a work plan that targeted revenue, productivity gains and dramatically reduced unit costs.
The Lab’s health plan operations improvement templates quickly documented over 250 non-technology improvement opportunities across the following organizations: Plan Development, Medical Affairs, Actuarial, Underwriting, Marketing, Sales, Member Services (contact center), Claims Processing, Contract Development and Imaging Support. Examples:
Roughly 25% of claims were held in a suspense file due to predictable, avoidable front end errors: unmet eligibility requirements, missing patient data, inaccurate pricing information and others, processing backlogs exceeded 40 days.
Multiple versions of informal selling “kits” presented an inconsistent, unclear sales message. Competitors’ presentations targeted customers’ highest priorities more clearly and consistently.
Over 30% of new business applications contained incomplete data that was not resolved in client transition meetings. Consequently, 30% of underwriters’ time was costly rework – collecting and reconciling missing data.
Unnecessary and voluntary authorizations accounted for 60% of the organizational work load. Clearer guidelines, improved education of providers and members and more consistent ClientCo procedures reduce more than half of this waste.
ClientCo engaged The Lab to assist its internal improvement team in a four month, self-funding implementation effort. Using process redesign templates, best practices and standardized operating measures, ClientCo achieved a three point increase in market share and a 30% reduction in unit costs.
Comprehensive, seven-month self-funding, non technology improvement implementation initiative for the supply chain operations of a top-five global pharmaceuticals producer.
A global producer of pharmaceuticals found that the supply chain performance of its North American subsidiary, ClientCo, persistently lagged its internal European peers. Additionally, U.S. distribution channels and end-users sought product and service variations that required rapid expansion of supply chain capabilities: increased packaging options; more diverse lot sizes; reduced order cycle times; lower customer inventory levels; major improvements in service responsiveness, accuracy and reliability.
A previous eight-month internally led ClientCo effort identified numerous technology improvements but delivered little progress. Afterwards, the ClientCo team, comprised of line managers and Six Sigma Blacks Belts, contacted The Lab, targeting significant, measurable, non-technology improvement within 6–9 months.
Within eight weeks, The Lab identified over 500 activity-level, non-technology improvements which could be implemented without major investment in technology or plant infrastructure. Roughly 30% of the improvements could be completed within 30 to 60 days (Immediate Action Items). The remainder were implemented within seven months. Examples (Manufacturing):
The decision process for releasing orders for production failed to concentrate accountability for surplus quantities, rush orders, uneconomic lot sizes and other costly outcomes. This process was simplified, documented and primary accountability was concentrated and tracked across 2–3 executive positions for each major product category.
Numerous opportunities existed to integrate QA tasks more closely with daily production activities. Root causes for inbound quality failures were more rigorously documented and solutions were moved “up the line,” e.g., receiving dock, suppliers’ plants, sourcing certification.
Roughly half of the existing standards for bills of material, production labor, machine rates, etc., were overly complex and significantly out of date. Improvements targeted simplification of standards, and improvements in comparative reporting and a continuous updating capability.
After the Phase I effort, The Lab assisted ClientCo with on-site, self-funding, non-technology improvement implementation activities, completing the Phase II segment over a seven-month period.