Earlier this summer it was announced that sales of ice cream and frozen treats were up by over 100% on 2017’s figures. Boozy ice lollies were among the fastest growing product areas, with an increase in sales of 188% reported by Waitrose. Mmmm, G&T for me please!
But while a proliferation of flavours and combinations are available, from salted caramel and vanilla clotted cream to maple bacon and peaches and honey, it’s still hard to beat a ’99 and a flake’ from an ice cream van.
As there’s still some sunshine and warm weather left, we recommend stopping to buy one. And while you’re at it, have a look for some Lean tools and techniques in action, particularly ‘Runner, Repeater Stranger’.
The Runner, Repeater, Stranger (also known as Runner, Repeater, Rarity) technique supports scheduling, prioritisation and efficiency – in fact it has lots of uses.
Runners are the items demanded, or the process carried out most frequently – say around 80% of the time. At the ice cream van, the ’99 and a flake’ is a Runner. There’s enough demand to justify a special whippy ice cream machine! If you look at the way things are set up you’ll see that the items needed to make these are laid out to facilitate efficient and easy delivery, and there are sufficient stocks of ice cream, cones and flakes to meet demand.
Repeaters are the items demanded or the process carried out less often, but on a recurring basis. At the ice cream van, the ice lollies represent this category. Its worthwhile for the ice cream van to stock some, and to accommodate a freezer, but most of the space in the van is taken up by the gear required to make the 99s.
Strangers are the items or tasks that are called for rarely. They may involve bespoke requirements. Delivering them can be resource intensive. For the ice cream van, hot drinks could represent Strangers. As the demand is low and intermittent, its not worth investing in a high tech machine for these and its likely that the hot drink will take a while to make. Also, since hot drinks are not the ice cream van’s specialty, they may not be the tastiest ever.
The Runner, Repeater, Stranger principle is clearly very helpful when it comes to planning, scheduling, inventory and layout. The ice cream van has set up ways of working around the Runners, and then considered the Repeaters. But what about the Strangers? A separate strategy is recommended for these. If the drinks really aren’t so great, and take ages to make, is it worth it? Maybe those customers asking for a hot drink could be signposted to the coffee van? Could hot drinks be available at certain times of the day only? If its such a complex task, could it be assigned to a specialist? Or could hot drinks become Runners in the future?
In the organisations we work with we often see processes that have been made complicated and convoluted over time because the same rules and ways of working are applied to different types of requirement. The Runner, Repeater and Stranger principle allows us to apply different rules, and not try to force exceptions or complex rarities through our standard process. We don’t see many ice creams, but we see plenty of systems and processes that are made complex so that they can accommodate every contingency.
Runner, Repeater Stranger is also a brilliant tool for prioritisation. Will a solution that we’re considering improve the process for our Runners, or affect only a small number of activities undertaken rarely?
A good starting point is a Pareto Analysis to determine the Runners, Repeaters and Strangers. And then, like in the ice cream van, develop ways of working around the Runners, accommodate the Repeaters, and develop a strategy for the Strangers. Scheduling, planning, inventory, layout, storage of work items, processing and prioritisation can all be supported using this thinking. It’s a multi purpose technique that really is hard to top!