In 2010, Harvard Business School published a case study “The Dabbawala (Tiffin courier service) System: On-Time Delivery, Every Time” an essential service for the office goers in the city of Mumbai, my hometown in India. Consistency, punctuality and less than one mistake in 6 million deliveries it is a marvel…
Japanese service industry is also well known for its punctual, prompt and precision service.The Shinkansen or the bullet train cleaners one such example. Bullet trains shuttle in and out of the platforms at Tokyo station 210 times each day, with average intervals of four minutes. Trains spend only 12 minutes at the station in Tokyo. That includes two minutes for passengers to disembark and three more for the next to get on, leaving only seven minutes for cleaning.
Travelling between Tokyo and Kobe every week for four years, I have witnessed this punctual staff diligently at work and last week took some photos of the same in action.
The first step of passengers on train getting off begins with the cleaning staff already at the doors bowing to the passengers leaving.
The staff enters the train and begin their seven minute window for cleanup.
Some maintenance tasks proceed in parallel. Lines of passengers are already forming to get into the train. The actions are well rehearsed and precision is the name of the game. No time to waste especially with the Shinkansen not known to deviate from planned schedules.
The litter is picked up. Burnable waste, plastic bottles, no time wasted here and passengers who diligently make sure to throw the right garbage in the right disposal outlets is also helpful.
The disposal of litter….
The doors are now closed by the staff for further cleanup activity. The activity picks pace once the doors are closed which involves multiple steps of turning seats to face the driving direction, doing the vacuum in the carriage etc.
SEATS TURNING BEGINS. I can watch only from outside since doors are closed and no access.
The white flaps on each seat are arranged and replaced in case of problems. You need to watch it to see the speed at which this is executed. The staff is looking at the next row while working on the current one. Wonder how many years she has been practising this for such flawless execution.
With the task done, the staff huddles together, bows and then rushes for the next train!!! They supposedly do more than 120 trains in a day!!!! (that too a normal day, 168 max as per records in a day!!)
With the task done, the station attendant, signals for boarding and checks if all the boarding is complete pointing his hand to signal “confirmed” on both ends.
Confirmation done, he waves the flag, the “ALL CLEAR” sign for the train to depart
The train departs and the station attendant also goes to the adjoining platform, the next one is in ten minutes. A BUSY job… but awesome team work.
There is also a Youtube video which shows this action in a timelapse format. Here you go.