Starr & Associates Opening Hearts for Open Hand

By: Craig P. Woods

Open Hand is a community-based provider of nutritious, home delivered meals to those who may otherwise go without food.  Starr & Associates became a neighbor of Open Hand approximately four years ago and due to their mission, decided to get involved by providing volunteers for their daily meal packing process. When Open Hand discovered that volunteers from Starr & Associates had expertise in process improvement, they approached us about helping them to address the inefficiencies in their operations. (Open Hand delivers over 5,000 meals per day to 19 counties in metro Atlanta.) Thus, as part of its core mission to be good corporate citizens, Starr & Associates agreed to work with Open Hand to enhance the experience of their volunteers and to make recommendations that would enable the organization to be more efficient in the preparation and delivery of its meals.

The first process that Starr & Associates was asked to examine was the reduction of its meal changeover time. Open Hand received feedback from volunteers that their time was not being used effectively while the next meal was being set up to be packaged. A partial meal changeover results when one of the menu items is different and a full changeover occurs where the entire menu is changed (e.g., breakfast to a dinner). Open Hand’s objective is to have a changeover process that is faster and at the same time engages the volunteers.

Starr & Associates started by gathering the voice of the customer to understand project objectives and capture the business case. We developed a project plan and charter, identifying in scope and out of scope work, key stakeholders and their roles, assumptions and risks.

In the discovery phase we did a current state analysis and an “as is” process flow. To capture metrics for a base line, over 35 changeover observations were completed. We were then able to calculate median times for full and partial changeovers. In addition, the time studies highlighted the greatest process improvement opportunities. We conducted one-on-one interviews with Open Hand front line supervisors and staff to validate our findings.

The next steps were to construct a Cause & Effect Fishbone Diagram that resulted in identifying 27 opportunities yielding 70 potential solution recommendations for improvement.  Employing an Impact Effort Matrix, the team was able determine that 83% of our solutions fell into the recommended approach strategy.

One of the key strategies Starr & Associates utilized was the Single-Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) methodology of converting changeover tasks from internal to an external setup.  Converting 12 tasks from internal to external tasks through recommended process improvement solutions will help Open Hand achieve the objective of reducing changeover time. In addition, other recommendations will provide Open Hand the opportunity to better engage volunteers and reduce changeover time through defined roles and responsibilities, improved line visual aids, and improvements to the meal packing methods.

Over the next few weeks Starr & Associates, working with the front-line staff, will initiate the implementation phase of the project. I will provide updates as we progress from implementation to control.  It has been both fulfilling and gratifying to work with Open Hand as they are truly making a positive difference for thousands of families in metro Atlanta.

If you are interested in learning more about Open Hand Atlanta or want to know how you and your organization can volunteer here is their link.

If you want to know how Starr & Associates can help improve your processes and increase efficiency that can impact your bottom line here is how you can contract us.

Call 1-888-727-3017 or