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How a national high street estate agency used Lean diagnostics to create savings of £590K in eight weeks - A case study

How a national high street estate agency used Lean diagnostics to create savings

Moving house can be one of life’s most stressful events. Even just renting a property, without the added complication of having to involve a solicitor, can be painful. From dealing with letting agents, to obtaining references, and getting your finances in order. Not to mention the packing and the very task of physically moving all your belongings from one home to another.

It’s not that straightforward for a letting agency either. They’re busy dealing with applicants to collect information, get it onto the system and process deposits, while keeping landlords happy at the same time.

If only there was a way to make the process much smoother and faster - for the letting agency, but most crucially, for the tenants and landlords they service.

In this blog post, we present a brief case study of how Lean was successfully applied to a letting agency in the UK to do just that.

The objective 

A property letting agency with over 100 branches in the UK and a total of 164 administration staff across all sites, were looking to centralise all their branch based administration activities to two locations, known as HUBs. 

The companies project team had designed a Target Operating Model (TOM) based on having 60 administrators across the HUBs. Before proceeding with the implementation their private equity partner requested they enlist the help of an expert Lean Consultant to validate the assumptions made in the design of the TOM. 

The key objectives of the Lean Diagnostic Assessment were to:

  • Identify and measure the full spectrum of current state processing activities. 
  • Identify and measure the impact of current state non-value adding activities.
  • Using the findings and solutions identified, determine the productivity gap from current state to optimised future state design. 
  • Recommend the future state TOM design for Management consideration.

The current state analysis took place over a period of weeks. A number of Lean tools were applied including Demand Analysis and Value Stream Mapping, as well as an analysis of cycle times. 

Key findings and recommendations

The current state analysis highlighted a number of significant improvements to the proposed TOM.

These included:

Problem Solution Benefit
Application forms with duplicate information were taking too long to process. Simplified and removed duplicates from forms. Reduced labour time.
Application forms were completed with errors and missing information. Introduced autofill functionality on all forms to increase right first time and automated mistake proofing of forms with incomplete forms returned to the branch. Increased right first time, reduced delays and reduced labour time.
Excessive time to find documents on systems, held on local PC, on desks or in filing cabinets. Introduced shared drive for documents. Reduced delays and labour time.
Excessive time to switch between systems and tasks. Introduced twin screen workstations to make tasks easier and faster to complete. Reduced delays and labour time.

Administrator data input timings impacted by Branch support calls and emails.

Processed reactive support activities and data input activities separately. Assigned Administrators for data input and regular processing activities and Supervisors to act as the point of contact for landlords, tenants and branches. Reduced time to process paperwork, improved response time and branch service quality.
Staff development and retention concerns due to mundane, repetitive activity. Upskilling staff and rotation of activities to keep work interesting. Increased job satisfaction and improved retention rates.
Many of these solutions were simple. And on their own, the impact isn’t hugely significant. It’s when you look at the impact of all of these improvements combined that they make a notable impact.

 

The outcome

By taking a ‘ground up’ view of the current state processes, we were able to identify a number of wasteful activities for removal and greater streamlining of processes to enable continuous flow.

Providing best practice process design solutions using a Lean approach we were able to;

  • Save the company £590k
  • Increase tenant and landlord satisfaction
  • Reduce application processing times
  • Improve teamwork
  • Increase staff retention
  • Show how Lean can be used to optimise processes.

 

By taking a step back to assess the current state of the proposed TOM, a number of opportunities for process improvement were revealed. Implementing these changes resulted in significant benefits for the company. 

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