In the workshop well-established processes can be the difference between providing quality service or poor outcomes. It’s also an effective tool for training and development, writes Bruce Wain.
Operating efficient and effective workshops is a ‘combination’ of operator skills, equipment reliability and resource availability, bounded in well- established processes. Volumes and job types can all impact this equilibrium; with complex prescriptions and demanding customers placing more pressure on workshops.
The already effective workshop has the right process to achieve their ‘combination’ every time. For the nearly- efficient workshops, devoting time to embedding processes will ultimately deliver better results and, importantly, more time attending to the customer.
The first point to consider is establishing a process framework by using simple flow-diagrams to identify what needs to be done. Then, steps to define the necessary tasks should be drawn up with clear written instructions and even supporting images and diagrams.
In pursuit of becoming a more effective workshop, are you aware of expectations for high-quality workshop results to deliver the best customer service? Are written steps still appropriate for current operations? It may be time to establish or review current processes.
At our New Zealand training workshop, students’ skill levels dictate our processes – most have not experienced a workshop environment. Effective workshops consider this when new dispensers or technicians join their practice.
We include clear operator instructions and demonstrations for equipment and tools. While our resources are donated, effective workshops have clear steps for ordering and replacement.
Student numbers control our ‘jobbing volumes’, which is favourable for our situation rather than in a practice workshop where the number of customer’s orders often dictates workflow.
Effective workshops would follow established steps when customer demands arise. One workshop I contacted said that fitting lenses to a client’s own frame has two main demands:
- Time without their spectacles and;
- Ensuring that the frame is not damaged or broken.
Effective written steps for this include:
- Checking the frame to ensure it’s of reasonable condition to be reglazed;
- Ensuring the spectacles can be glazed in a reasonable timeframe;
- Extremely careful handling of the spectacle frame.
A process’s complexity will be commensurate with operator skills and level of automation, as well as types and volume of jobbing. The main theme should be to keep the process very simple without contributing to confusion, poor quality or customer service delays.
Steps within a process
Each step should highlight any complexities and allow time for accurate completion. An example is using a focimeter to measure and ‘dot’ a lens, ensuring correct optics as per prescription — sphere, cylinder, axis or prism.
Negating potential errors at this early stage requires clear steps with appropriate quality assurance measures.
For example, basic steps for marking uncut single-vision lenses (telescopic focimeter):
- Adjust focimeter eyepiece to your setting – further instructions on page XX
- Move frame table down away from lens –see Figure X … etc to step 11
Accurate focimeter measurement steps facilitate accurately ‘dotted’ lenses. Reducing any likelihood of errors, your steps should deliver the customer’s correct prescription, corresponding lenses (correct optics) and correct frame. As these constitute initial steps to complete a pair of spectacles, the need for accuracy is critical.
Preparing lenses for edging – with frame tracing or manually cutting a template – also requires clear steps. An example would be to proceed with blocking only once the template and lens are clearly marked with a nasal mark, for alignment purposes.
When edging lenses – manual or automatic – effective guidelines would include: starting with the right lens, placing lenses in the correct place in the tray; that is, as you look at the tray right lens is on the left.
Further steps need to explain; attaching a template or nominating a correct trace; clamping lenses; machine operation; and edged lens removal. Different workshop technologies dictate the complexity of instructions for operators.
Final and quality checking is an everyday process. Clear instructions on this, along with appropriate optical standards (AS /NZS ISO 21987 – Ophthalmic optics – Mounted spectacle lenses), avoids customer issues later down the track.
Creating new standards
Writing clear steps promotes quality by enhancing accuracy and embedding quality control, while also reducing errors. It’s also an effective tool for training and furthering development of workplace skills.
One workshop commented: “We have a set procedure when glazing. It means anyone can take over at any stage and know what has/hasn’t been done. This reduces the risk of rejects leading to client dissatisfaction.”
Finally, it’s good practice management amending steps as operator skills evolve, new products emerge, and technologies improve. New steps need to achieve outcomes effectively and effectively to become the new ‘standard’.
Benefits are gained through effective processes not only for the workshop but throughout the practice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Wain has been in the optical industry for more than 50 years. He has extensive experience and teaching in all aspects of optical technology and workshop skills.