The ‘meter installation’ unit of a water utility company installs water meters.

The ‘meter installation’ unit of a water utility company installs water meters. When a customer requests an installation a supervisor visits the customer and transfers the results of the survey to the plumbers. A plumber visits the customer and installs the meter. The company then decides to install for free a new ‘standard’ remote-reading meter. The new meter is designed to make installation easier by including universal quick-fit joints that reduce pipe cutting and jointing during installation. As a pilot, it was decided to prioritize those customers with the oldest meters and conduct trials of how the new meter worked in practice. All other aspects of the installation process were left as they were. However, the pilot was not a success. Customers with older meters were distributed throughout the company’s area, so staff had to travel relatively long distances between customers. Also, because customers had not initiated the visit themselves, they were more likely to have forgotten the appointment, in which case plumbers had to return to their base and try to find other work to do. The costs of installation were proving to be far higher than forecast. The company decided to change its process. Rather than replace the oldest meters which were spread around its region, it targeted smaller geographic areas to limit travelling time. It also cut out the survey stage of the process because, using the new meter, most installations could be fitted in one visit. Just as significantly, fully qualified plumbers were often not needed, so installation could be performed by less expensive labour. Position the three stages of this history on a product–process matrix.

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