Onboarding at Lean Systems
We have a specific process for bringing on new clients, which we will share in this post. We mentioned it briefly in How to Select an Optimization Company, but we wanted to go into a little more detail.
Let’s say you’re interested in optimization, and you want to explore whether you want to engage us on the topic. What follows is an outline of what we would suggest.
Onboarding Step 1: High-level analysis of current operations.
We always like to do a high-level analysis of a company’s current operations before formally engaging with them, as we find it helps get everyone on the same page and motivates both sides. Our team gets to see how interesting the problem is, and our potential client gets a grasp on how much could be improved with optimization.
A typical example would be a routing problem: a potential client would send us the routes they covered (flew, drove, etc.) over the past month. We’ll take the data, apply some basic rules - often suggested by the potential client - so the solution we come up with is a good representation of the actual problem (an example rule would be allowing jet class upgrades, but no downgrades), and then take a look at the results.
If the client feels the solution isn’t close enough to real-world operations, we can tweak it slightly, and add a rule or two, but usually our first stab gives a good indication of what might be possible.
Admittedly, this method provides an optimistic scenario, as one would rarely know all the routes to be traveled ahead of time, but it gives an approximate look at what can be improved.
This analysis usually supports the trial agreement mentioned in the next step, particularly when operations managers, crew schedulers, etc. have to make a case to upper management to begin working together.
Onboarding Step 2: Develop trial agreement.
At this point, we will have discussed what type of problem - crew scheduling, routing, etc. - the company wants to focus on during trial, and we will have completed an initial analysis.
Usually this is the time when a few more team members are brought in, and we start to discuss concrete deliverables, and break down the overall goal (ex: revamping the crew scheduling process) into more specific sub-problems (ex: verifying days off compliance).
We’ve mentioned before the common sources of problems when implementing optimization, but the overall cause is tackling a problem that’s too big or difficult to start.
We try to identify small problems that we can leverage for a big improvement in operations for our clients. These are typically problems that we know are relatively easy to solve, but cause large headaches, either in resources (time), or financially (money) for our clients.
The sub-problem(s) we identify then form the basis of the trial agreement, with the analysis done in Step 1 supporting the proposal when it has to be sold internally (with upper management, CEO, etc.).
Once this agreement is signed, we move to the next step.
Onboarding Step 3: Exchange of detailed data and rules.
This is when the trial really gets started. For the base analysis done in Step 1, if we’re talking about an aviation context, it might just be completed from a list of takeoffs/destinations that were booked flights. We’ll assume things like deadheading in between, crew availability, etc.
In this step, we get much more detailed - we might take a look at a larger data set, include operating costs, flight hours restrictions, etc.
At this point our client will put together a list of operation-specific rules that apply to their fleet. Again, if we’re talking about an aviation context, this might be minimum flight hours for managed jets, organization-specific quality-of-life considerations (a certain number of days off, or days at home base), a list of preferred bases, etc.
We’ll start from the basic analysis in Step 1, and begin to implement these detailed rules, going back and forth with proposed schedules and suggested improvements, until we get to a solution both sides are confident in.
One area we pride ourselves in at Lean Systems is our flexible ‘rules engine’ - meaning that operational rules specific to each of our clients can be readily integrated into the solution.
We realize that all operations are significantly different, and without implementing detailed rules, you get generic solutions that aren’t very useful.
Through trial we will work through the deliverables laid out in the agreement - these are essentially just stepping stones to the final result: a product that produces solutions that can be immediately implemented into operations.
Onboarding Step 6: Move from trial to subscription.
Our eventual goal with all our projects is to move to a point where solutions are provided seamlessly. This usually takes the form of pre-scheduled optimizations throughout the day, or sometimes on-demand optimization.
Once the trial is finished and this happens, we move to subscription-based pricing, usually based on some measure of the size of the problem (per crew member, per route, etc.).
The great part about this type of pricing is the incentives for both companies are aligned - both sides help the other grow!
Onboarding Step 7: Repeat with new project.
Often a company will have several different projects they want to tackle, and we might only solve a sub-problem of the first project they wanted to tackle.
At this point we circle back and take a look at what the next sub-problem or project should be, and the cycle repeats itself.
The overall goal is quick delivery of small optimization chunks that provide a large benefit - after several cycles, the original project goal is completed!
Looking for tips on how to select an optimization company before these steps? You can check out our post about that here.
Let us know how you like to start working with new companies!