Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Simple, Brilliant, Mistake Proofing at the Amazing In-N-Out Burger --- by Mark Graban

A little help for the not-so-common sensible:

I was in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and I had a little extra time on my way to the Burbank airport, which meant a rare treat—lunch at the famed In-N-Out Burger. I don’t mean to be that guy who tweets what he eats, but my lunch is pictured at right.
The main picture I wanted to share is a simple example of perfect mistake-proofing (aka error proofing or “poka-yoke”). There is a possible customer error that could be made in many fast-food or deli restaurants: throwing the reusable tray into the trash bin.

Ineffective organizations post signs, warning, and exhortations. Smart organizations plan for mistake-proofing. Here is the error proofing—the hole that you throw your wrapper, cup, and food waste into is round and smaller than the rectangular reuseable tray.

I didn’t really fight or shove the tray while staging this photo, but it was clear that the tray would not fit into the round hole. Problem prevented : It is physically impossible to trash the tray.
Yes, I know you’re not supposed to throw away the tray. I think this is obvious to most customers.
In comparison, most Quiznos restaurants merely admonish the customers with signs saying, “Please Do Not Throw Away Baskets.”
The Quiznos tray fits into the trash hole (which is huge). I wonder how many trays they lose.

Does Quiznos really believe that its customers think the hard plastic trays are disposable? If you do accidentally drop the tray into the dirty trash and food scraps, are you likely to want to retrieve it? I suppose I could have titled this story, “Quiznos Thinks You Are Dumb,” but of course that isn't true, they are just shifting the mistake proofing onto the customer rather than deal with it themselves.
If Quiznos had followed In-N-Out's lead of mistake proofing the trash, they could have filled that high-visibility space with a “Thank You for Your Business” message.


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