Error Tracking in Processes

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Lean six sigma methodologies focus on removing wasteful activities from processes. However, at times we need process activities that come in handy when the expected process is not followed or are essential for fraud prevention and/or regulation. During my recent trip to India I came across two such examples, which made me think about the importance of compliance, fraud detection and customer centric activities that correct process deviation. While these activities may not further process KPI’s, they are certainly necessary. As in everything, it is all about striking a balance. Add too many such activities and your process may not be “lean”, not having any may lead to issues in other related processes. Let me describe both these examples.


Airport Security:

India has always had pretty tough airport security procedures, especially after the hijacking of an Air India plane more about 20 years ago. The drill is basically the same. You don’t need to take off your shoes, but you need to extract your laptop, tablets and iPads and put them in a plastic bin. I noticed that each bin had a thick piece of cardboard inside with a letter and a number (e.g. J25, F14) l inked on it. I loaded my hand baggage onto the belt to be checked by the X-ray machine and then walked to the ladies booth to be physically frisked by a female constable. My boarding pass was stamped as “Security checked” and I went to collect my hand baggage that was waiting for me. Before I could grab them, another constable took my boarding card, checked that it had a valid stamp and then quickly noted down some details in a notebook—she did this while I was picking up my bags and was so fast that it did not even register.

It was an early morning flight and I lined up to board at the first announcement. I settled in with my two female companions and was chatting idly, when an airline employee came up and asked if I had left my laptop in security? It hit me then. No wonder the laptop bag was so light! It was 3 minutes to take off and I ran with the employee back to the terminal to claim my laptop. The gates were closed, we had to get them opened and then I had to satisfy the chief security officer that it was indeed my laptop – I rambled on about the programs it had. I think he just decided I didn’t fit into the typical profile of a trouble maker and let me off with a lecture. We made it back for the flight to take off on time. I couldn’t help marveling at how the airline and security had managed to trace me. My companions told me the airlines had been making repeated announcements about the laptop left in security in the waiting area – but I had already boarded the plane.

I finally figured out how they had found me. It was the register, where my seat # was linked to my hand baggage and laptop. After all it would be important to trace who left luggage/laptop behind, even though if I hadn’t claimed the laptop it probably would have been checked and destroyed. So that extra activity of noting down the # in the plastic bin to my boarding card details was essential in tracing the laptop back to me. Sure, I deviated from the expected process path, I expect others have too and sometimes you need to add activities to benefit the customer

Creation of an online banking account:

In the U.S, it is pretty simple to open an online bank account. You enter your account #, maybe debit card # , perhaps social, date of birth, set up a user code and password and you are all set. In India too the process is as simple, but there is an additional step. Each bank account is linked to an Account #, debit card # and a mobile #. Getting a mobile # in India requires a lot of verification and proof of identity and can be tracked to the actual person.

To set up online banking you need to know and enter your account # and debit card #. Once entered correctly, a system-generated one time password is sent as a text to your mobile phone, which is valid for 30 seconds only. You need to immediately enter this password into the screen to move onto creating your online account. This additional step in the process ensures that only the person who knows both account #, debit card # AND physically is in possession of the mobile # associated with the account can enable on-line banking. A great way to prevent fraud! Going forward any online banking transaction (e.g. online payment using the debit card, or transferring funds) needs you to enter the one-time password texted to your mobile.

Both the airline and the bank in this article are rated #1 in their industries respectively, and their processes help us understand how they got there.


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