Monday, February 16, 2009

A Case For Lean In Sony’s Front Office & Fulfillment Operation

Recently, I had a Sony Bravia LCD digital color TV fail a short period of time after the manufacturer’s warranty had expired.  The failure was catastrophic in that the repair would cost over 50% of the original purchase price. I called Sony to express my dissatisfaction with the now discontinued unit and Sony agreed to replace the unit with a new model for a deeply discounted price.  Had the replacement gone smoothly, that would have been the end of the story. Unfortunately, what transpired over the replacement transaction serves to highlight a lean continuous improvement opportunity in Sony’s front office and fulfillment operation.


In order to verify the authenticity of my claim, the Sony representative asked that I remove and submit the serial number label from the defective unit.  Information retrieved from on February 14, 2009 at 9:12 AM MST indicates that my package arrived and was signed for by a Sony employee at their Fort Myers, Florida location on February 4 at 11:00 AM EST.   Now the frustration begins.


According to a Sony call center agent, the replacement order was not placed into their system until approximately 11:30 AM EST on February 10, 2009.   Assuming a generous 30 minutes for order placement, the order request sat incurring the lean waste of “waiting” for 4 business days!  While waiting for input into the Sony systems, the letters may pile up and occupy unnecessary space.  The letters are also at risk of being lost or being input out of their arrival sequence.


After being entered into their system, the order waited again until February 12, 2009 before actually being shipped.  The order had now waited another 2 plus business days prior to shipping. 


The entire process from receipt of the information until the replacement unit was shipped was over 6 business days! By my estimate, the only value added activities during this time were receiving the information, entering the order, and the pick/pack/ship of the replacement unit. Assuming 1 hour for the value added activity and 8 hours per business day, the value added activity comprises 2% of the cycle time.  The other 98% is viewed as waste!


Applying various lean tools would help identify the root cause, eliminate the waste, and install management systems to have the changes become engrained in their culture.  Consider the following ……


  • Included in Morning Market is a review of the previous day’s performance.  With the proper customer centric measures, the cycle time would be visible to the leadership.
  • Value Stream Mapping would provide a visual representation of the process including queue time.
  • A 5 Whys exercise would enable the organization to identify a root cause of the problem. 
  • A kaizen would provide for identification of an improved process.
  • Standard work would document the new and improved process.
  • Gemba walks would enable leadership to reinforce the new process and adherence to standards by visiting the workplace on a regular basis.


Does every case at Sony take this long? I don’t know, that is for Sony leadership to determine. The purpose of this post is simply to provide a real world example of waste and how lean can be used for continuous improvement purposes in non-manufacturing processes. 


In these turbulent economic times, companies must maintain a high level of customer service. Compressing cycle times on orders is just one of the ways to improve customer service. Satisfied customers are repeat customers. 


Should someone from Sony view this post and want to verify the detail presented, they can refer to case number E39586838.



Post Author: Royce Williard

Copyright 2009, The Williard Group

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