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Case Study – Applying Lean Principles in our Voids Review

As part of the Positive Future plan, Saffron wanted to give people the tools to critically examine the way we work. Being able to take a step back and evaluate our existing processes is crucial if we want to continually improve our offering.

The ‘lean’ methodology is a fantastic method of making sure the processes are working efficiently and delivering the maximum value to our customers. To ensure that it was right for Saffron, we undertook a proof of concept review of one of our key workstreams – the end-to-end voids and lettings process.

Saffron’s Business Transformation team worked with Ad Esse Consulting to complete a thorough diagnostic of the voids process. Voids was selected because there was a high potential for direct savings through reduced void rent loss and a reduction to the cost of void works.

At the time, voids suffered from weak performance data, so Value Stream Mapping was used to understand the entire process from start to end. Mapping the process helped to indentify which parts caused waste, unnecessary stress and led to work being delayed, as well as the elements that added value for customers. Identifying the causes of the delays and errors during the diagnostic stage allowed us to identify possible solutions and test how effective we were at resolving issues.

As the voids process was redesigned, we placed a focus on enabling the lettings and voids teams to communicate and work in parallel. This helped to eliminate the waste created by waiting for one part of the process to be completed before another started. The new process was implemented rapidly using skills that Saffron staff developed during the review, with the majority of actions completed within four weeks of the process redesign.

The introduction of team Information Centres and the void tracker has given staff a more visible way to track their performance. The lettings team now identify properties that customers want early on, ensuring the voids team is working on the most appropriate properties first. There are fewer voids being worked on and fewer visits for voids operatives, reducing the waste and increasing the value-add activity for the voids team.

Moving to ‘any day’ tenancies has reduced the overburden on everyone involved in the voids process and given customers greater choice and flexibility. There is now a clear, concise standard for properties that is understood by all, and continuously improved.

The results of all the hard work are evident in the figures – void rent loss is down 50 per cent on average each month, with a £114,000 reduction in rent loss when comparing a three-month period from 2018 to 2019. 75 per cent of residents are now making payments at sign up, compared to none before the review, and key to key time has dropped by 67 per cent, from 58 days to 19 days. An increased use of digital tools has also resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in the use of paper throughout the process.

“The voids review was our very first ‘lean’ review, and wow, what an impact it has made!” said Jodie Sherwood, Assistant Director, Business Transformation. “Our new process is fit for the future and is truly focused on our customers, designed with them at the heart of it. Not only has the end-to-end process been transformed, the way voids are managed now has also improved significantly.

“This review really showcased the power of collaborative working to the organisation. Those involved have felt engaged and empowered by the approach taken and continue to use the tools and techniques they have learned to drive continuous improvement.”