Lean processes help By-law Department
Project: Bylaw Complaints & Technology
Project Lead: Gord Garfield
Team Members: Bobbie Mitchell, Stacey Collins, Aaron Sloan, Craig Weekes
Productivity Savings: $8,381
Municipal Law Enforcement Office Manager Gord Garfield admits he loved the concept of Lean Six Sigma process improvement, but it wasn’t until he completed his first Green Belt project that he discovered the true value of the initiative.
“I loved the concept,” he said. “From day one I was 100 per cent behind it, but it would come down to what happened at the end of the project.”
In the past, Mr. Garfield explained, staff would come forward with ideas and suggestions, but without a proper procedure or method to quantify the data and the need, the projects simply never got off the ground.
“We put together the information, we looked at the challenges and went through the Green Belt process, and when we came up with a solution it was implemented,” he said.
Mr. Garfield’s first project, Bylaw Complaints and Technology, aimed to reduce cycle time and kilometers driven by staff as well as safety issues for the officers.
The project has resulted in $9,800 in actual hard savings and another $8,381 in productivity savings.
In explaining the new processes Mr. Garfield explained that in the past if Municipal Law Enforcement officers were responding to complaints in Kinmount and in the course of their work a resident comes to them with a stray dog, they would need to call the office to determine the owner. In the event, if no one was in the bylaw office at the time, the Municipal Law Enforcement officers would have to take the dog and return to Lindsay to use the computer system and determine the rightful owner and then return it to Kinmount.
In another example, Mr. Garfield pointed to one of their highest volumes of calls – domestic waste clean and clear calls – or in other words, people who don’t cut their grass or clean their yards.
“We get a ton of calls from people that someone’s grass is too long because they aren’t cutting it,” Mr. Garfield said.
In that scenario, Municipal Law Enforcement officers attend the property in question to see if there is a breach of the bylaw, measure the length of the grass (when grass reaches eight inches high the property owner is in violation of the bylaw) and take a photo as evidence of the measurement. The Municipal Law Enforcement officer then returns to the office, uses the computer system to determine the property owner and a registered letter is sent to the home owner letting them know they have 14 days to address the infraction. After 14 days, Municipal Law Enforcement officers again attend the property to see if compliance was obtained. If the grass still isn’t cut, the officer once again returns to the office to set up cutting the grass by obtaining three quotes from private contractors. The Municipal Law Enforcement officer returns again to the property where he receives quotes from the contractors. When a contractor is selected, Municipal Law Enforcement then attends the property for a fourth time to monitor the grass cutting, and the cost is passed onto the property owner on their tax bill.
If the property is residential, but vacant, the process is even more cumbersome with the property having to be posted and a longer timeline for the compliance.
“Our Municipal Law Enforcement officers will now have iPads with them that will allow them to connect to the internal computer systems,” explained Mr. Garfield. “So if they are in Kinmount they can determine the dog’s owner – using that example – without returning to the office. If they attend a property regarding a bylaw complaint they have access to who owns a particular home while they are there and access to previous history on the property that might put the officer at risk.” The occurrence can now be completed while on scene.
Mr. Garfield said he expects a significant ongoing savings in both fuel costs and wear and tear on vehicles.
Another change the Green Belt process has brought about is putting the onus on property owners.
In the past property owners would be charged for the cost of having their grass cut, but there was no cost-recovery method for bylaw’s repeated visits to a given property.
Now, under the new process, property owners will be charged an incremental administration fee for not complying.
If Municipal Law Enforcement returns to the property for a subsequent complaint, and after the initial 14 days the grass has not been cut, the home owner will be charged $100. For each additional occurrence of the same issue, the administrative cost will double.
“We want property owners to be responsible for their property, even if they don’t live there permanently” Mr. Garfield said. “We anticipate at least a 20 per cent reduction in repeat calls as a result of implementing the new administrative fee.”
With about 188 grass calls per year they could save approximately 96 trips. Addressing 1,600 bylaw calls per year, it could translate into 320 fewer calls for service each year.
“My Green Belt project worked fabulous, I had a terrific team that worked very hard to come up with ideas” Mr. Garfield said. “I’m looking forward to continuing with these projects, and we’ve really been able to identify some key issues, so I’m very supportive of the program.”