When reading Bangalore you likely are expecting a blog on the Indian capital of IT outsourcing, but we’ll wait with that one after the new year. While I was very impressed with our visit of Infosys, I wanted to share my experiences of a quite different type: my visit to the Hindu temple of Sri Radha Krishna. Aside from the spiritual, what does an operations professor observe?
The customer flow experience uses queuing control and typical lean techniques:
- queues and continuous flow: there literally is an almost-continuous flow of worshipers during opening hours. I truly had no idea and had just walked down the Sheraton hotel to take a look at the temple. Before I knew it, I was part of a dense flow and funneled into a well-designed system of queues; more extensive than at any other place I’ve seen.
- 1×1 processing – no batching: each visitor pays 2 rupees to deposit your shoes (the rest of the visit is bare feet); viewing of the deities also is basically 1×1: you get your 5 seconds after long queuing because the queue keeps moving; one never stands still
- takt time and drummer-rope: the bottleneck are the observatory places of the deities. To keep the flow going, however, a takt time is established by a loudspeaker and every worshiper chanting:
- Hare Krishna Hare KrishnaKrishna Krishna Hare HareHare Rama Hare RamaRama Rama Hare Hare
- (Clueless foreigners like me are handed a card with the chant; after a few cycles, I got it down and felt really part of it all!)
- Limit inventory: Where the chanting start, also a series of tiles start. One person per tile, and after each chant, everyone moves up one tile. The number of tiles = the inventory of people before the deity. This system also brings everyone in synchronization and establishes the flow rate through the rest of the temple.
- Overflow inventory: only in the major temple (where there are three deities) is there an “inner overflow inventory” where people can get out of the line to take more time to meditate.
- Quality at the source: perhaps stretching a little, at the end of the visit one hands back the “parking place” number of your shoes, and you receive your shoes. (I would like to know what the error rate is–I wouldn’t be surprised it is a high-sigma process, similar to the Tiffinwallahs…)
Aside from the operational ingenuity, obviously established over a long time, the temple also is an example of a synchronized assistance and retail store: food is given for free to the needy and all types of desserts (Indians love sweets, like the Belgians) and parapharnelia is for sale after respects are paid to the deities. What came first: the museum store at the end of the visit, or the temple store?
One key take-away of my visit to India is that Indians thrive in chaos and complexity. Together with their ingenuity, this bodes well for managing in turbulent times.