Process Improvement Events

The City of Baltimore has hosted a number of Process Improvement Events aimed at identifying waste and inefficiency in our service provision. 

These events engage front-line workers to employ a variety of tactics to identify and eliminate waste.  From mapping out complicated to intensive processes step-by-step or implementing small changes quickly, the City’s programs and services have seen dramatic results from engaging in Process Improvement Events. 

The City works with three vendors – Operational Performance Solutions, NeoVista Consulting, and Global Productivity Solutions – to facilitate Process Improvement Events.

Event Overviews

Mayor's Office of Employment Development: NW One-Stop Career Center

The Why: The One Stop Career Center provides employment services for unemployed residents of the City, including ex-offenders. In FY13, there was a backlog of people who need services. This time delay is even more detrimental for ex-offenders, who are already at a disadvantage due to their criminal histories.

The How:

  • Create Standard of Work for staff
  • Create new, more instructive signage
  • Rearrange lobby, workspace and waiting areas
  • Create online orientation process
  • Create registration video

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
# of days from first visit to full registration71
# of days from first visit to orientation71
# of days from first visit to meeting with Business Services Representative 144
# of days to from registration to first service71
# of days from meeting with Business Services Representative to receiving job referral144
Finance Department: Retail Business District License Process (RBDL)

The Why: The RBDL program is the program by which business owners in each of the 10 business districts pay annual fees to their respective business associations. These fees support initiatives such as beautification projects, promotional events, and other activities which are aimed at drawing customers to the businesses in the district and encouraging economic vitality and growth. Currently, the steps of the process are split between three main entities, causing delinquency of payments, long wait times for applicants and lower revenue realization.

The How:

  • Create Standard of Work for each step of the process
  • Create standard letter to send to all RBDL holders
  • Revise invoice to include key information for payers
  • Create canned reports from City's financial system
  • Cross train employees to perform all steps of the process

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
% of Retail Business District License Fees paid within 30 days5%16%
% of Retail Business District License Fees paid within 90 days68%77%
% of businesses forwarded to collections17%19%
Liquor Board: Inspections Process

The Why: A 2013 audit of the Liquor Board identified deficiencies in the use of staff resources and accountability. The board receives community concerns about licensed establishments not complying with state liquor laws. The desired outcome for this event is to develop a new process that can be used in order for more establishments selling alcohol to be in compliance with state liquor laws.

The How:

  • Establish relationships with other City agencies that interact with liquor establishments
  • Develop annual training opportunity for licensee businesses
  • Create a standard notification letter, including an inspection checklist to ensure establishments are prepared for visit
  • Adjust inspection availability times/days of week to meet customer demand

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
Average # of inspections completed annually, per inspector315534
# of violation/compliance hearings 4663
Health Department: Year-End Accounting

The Why: BCHD has a larger dollar volume of grants in its budget than any other agency in Baltimore City. Closing out the gmultirants at year end has proven problematic for a variety of reasons, including: accountant workload, late invoices and delinquent reports from sub-grantees. All of these issues cause BCHD to routinely miss its deadlines for year-end close reports.

The How:

  • Develop Standard of Work and train employees, sub-grantees in “Grant Accounting 101”
  • Share a calendar of required due-dates and distribute escalation letters for missed deadlines
  • Establish common naming conventions for folders and reports
  • Create new report to verify data monthly, rather than waiting until year-end
  • Implement Sharepoint solution

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
% of sub-vendor reports received by July 3150%90%
Health Department: Grant Routing

The Why: Grants are a major funding source for the Health Department. The grants drive a number of contracts, which need to be routed through the internal and external approval processes. The process of routing contracts and getting them to BOE for approval is paper-based, which is labor and time intensive. A faster process would enable BCHD to execute services earlier and ensure that grant funds are spent before the grants expire.

The How:

  • Eliminate paper forms not necessary to route grant approvals
  • Create standard templates with pre-set language for required paperwork
  • Add agency fiscal officer to approval path to ensure account accuracy
  • Provide vendor education about audit requirements and City processes
  • Create multi-year renewable options for contracts
  • Review and redistribute workload of individual team members

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
# of days from grant award to BOE approval10767
Average # of days for contract to be routed through BCHD approval process7530
Fire Department: Operational Tracking & Fiscal Accountability

The Why: All fee-based services provided by the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) are being tracked by multiple systems and can be initiated by multiple departments/sources. This causes issues with accountability of work-done and the associated payments.

The How:

  • Develop Standard of Work for inspectors
  • Formalize relationship with City agencies involved in permitting process
  • Establish protocol for public records and insurance report requests
  • Create a period report to outline status of permits

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
# of re-inspections (annual)1,5001,000
Revenue from re-inspections084,000
# of 311 open requests/CSRs40064
Fire Department: Inspection Permitting

The Why: The inspection permitting process is currently bogged down by miscommunication between the Fire and Housing departments regarding which type of inspections are needed and what the Code requirements are for specific spaces. Internally, the Fire Department is facing challenges in tracking the status of inspections. These issues are causing significant delays in the process, leading to customer complaints.

The How:

  • Create standard form and checklist to be used for each inspection request
  • Redesign inspector work schedule to allow for more time dedicated to inspections
  • Train inspectors on effective use of current systems
  • Implement visual management and organize workspace

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
Average # of days from permit payment to customer receipt 3411
Average # of inspections completed daily, per inspector58
Department of Human Resources: Civil Service Hiring Process

The Why: The City's civil service hiring process takes several months to sometimes a year to complete, which leads to the City being unable to fill vacancies quickly, resulting in a loss of talent for the City.

The How:

  • Develop standard documents for: supplemental questions, request to fill, offer letter, candidate scoring document
  • Update NeoGov, online human resource management system, with standard documents
  • Conduct human resource officer training on new processes, new documents
  • Conduct hiring manager training to standardize practices across all City agencies

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
# of days between posting request and completion28.711
# of days to post conditional offer56.143
# of steps in civil service hiring process6448
Health Department: Community Asthma Program Referral Process

The Why: The current recruitment and outreach process for participants in the community asthma program is very time consuming, prohibiting the department from reaching its goal of completing three home visits within six months of referral. Poorly defined roles at each stage of the process creates ineffective and inhibits the program from serving its current participants in a timely manner, and from expanding its reach to new qualified participants.

The How:

  • Eliminate unnecessary step in the outreach process, reducing wait time by 2 weeks
  • Revise the documentation packet for participants, eliminating three forms and revising 11 to reduce redundancies and requests for irrelevant information
  • Improve inventory monitoring through visual management and organization of program supply closet
  • Establish tracking system to monitor each participant from enrollment to completion of home visits
  • Create a communications plan to engage with health care providers and increase the number of “warm” referrals, which are more likely to result in positive contact and enrollment

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
# of days from referral to program entry6014
% of cases with 3 home visits completed within six months60%70%
Finance Department: Bankruptcy Filing Process

The Why: The Bureau of Revenue Collections receives more than 3,000 bankruptcy filings, requiring research on all open bills, per month. The current process, despite full dedication of eight staff members, is taking weeks to complete and is creating a backlog of an estimated 6,000 cases. This is inhibiting the bureau's ability to provide good customer service.

The How:

  • Design an intake process that sorts cases by type, complexity
  • Cross-train personnel from every team to address bankruptcy filings
  • Create tracking method using a tag number, train personnel on method
  • Centralize intake point for electronic cases referred by Courts into one email system
  • Reduce use of paper through electronic signatures and issuing one letter to individuals with multiple citations
  • Develop script for customer service representatives to communicate standard, accurate information to callers

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
# of days to complete bankruptcy filing case23.65
# of days from parking violation to delivery to Bureau of Revenue Collection71
Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice: CitiWatch Camera Request Process

The Why: The process for requesting and administering CitiWatch cameras is not currently clearly defined and, therefore, is inconsistent and can be influenced by external factors. CCTV cameras require extensive infrastructure and technology, which can be very costly. Camera requests come from multiple sources and the current timeline from receipt of request to decision is roughly six months.

The How:

  • Centralize intake of requests to one email, including canned responses to notify requestor of receipt and next steps
  • Create a centralized tracking document for requests, including indicators for milestones like response to inquiry and site visit
  • Invite camera and fiber vendors to bi-weekly meeting to ensure all questions can be answered at that time
  • Set a standing site-visit appointment directly- after bi=weekly meeting to eliminate lag time due to scheduling conflicts
  • Create a site-visit check list, including all items that need to reduce need to schedule follow-up visits
  • Create boiler plate MOUs for common agreement types
  • Update public web presence to include information about existing cameras, process for requesting a camera and accurate contact information
  • Establish standard methodology for reviewing and deciding on camera requests

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
# of days from request to decision213 days69 days
# of days from decision to install198 days113 days
# of request intake points121
Police Department: Internal Purchasing Process

The Why: BPD's internal process for requesting good/services for procurement involves multiple stakeholders and is currently taking an average of 8 days from request to purchase order creation; if the request has issues, the process takes up to 30 days. BPD Fiscal staff is operating under inconsistent processes and duplicating efforts for document management.

The How:

  • Establish Standard of Work for each role in the process
  • Revise purchase request documents to include fields for required information
  • Create central tracking document, naming convention and electronic filing system for all purchase request documents
  • Create a checklist against which to check initial requests before entering into system
  • Begin standard communication with customers at pre-determined points in process
  • Conduct training with commanding officers on budget management and purchase request process

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
# of days from receipt to entry into CitiBuy83
% of packages rejected for missing/incorrect information105
% of customers contacted with two business days0100%
Department of General Services: Urgent Vendor Invoice Payment

The Why: The current process for urgent work invoicing between the Facility Maintenance Division and Accounts Payable Fiscal unit produces unwanted and unnecessary costs in equipment, paper, and space. As a result urgent work invoice processing takes more than 22 days which results in payment delays for vendors we rely upon. Improving this process and eliminating unnecessary, wastes, costs and wait times will allow the agency to benefit from increased output of approved invoices with the same personnel costs and reduced office expenses.

The How:

  • Standardize receipt of vendor invoices by email, rather than traditional mail
  • Develop a Standard of Work for invoice delivery to Accounts Payable
  • Centralize data collection and tracking to improve reporting function

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
# of days from draft invoice to Citibuy requisition28 days23 days
% of Urgent Work Invoices processed within 27 days of receipt50%60%
# of days between review of invoices by management to requisition creation7 days1 day
Health Department: Baltimore Infants & Toddlers Intake

The Why: For the last three years, Baltimore Infants and Toddlers (BITP) has not met the State of Maryland's legal requirement of 100% of infants and toddlers referred to be evaluated and assessed for eligibility for early intervention services within 45 days of program entry Additionally, the program has not met the requirement of direct service initiation within 30 days of the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) agreement date. For this reason, the program is considered “non-compliant” and, if corrective action is not taken, BITP may not be able to improve its services for Baltimore City families and toddlers and is at risk of losing funding from the State of Maryland.

The How:

  • Redesign the referral, review and assignment process to reduce excessive follow-up calls and rescheduling of appointments
  • Develop a tracking system for evaluation reports and service requests
  • Mail health history form with appointment reminder to family to ensure completion prior to scheduled evaluation
  • Create a visual representation of the process to improve customer awareness of the program steps and expectations

The Outcome:

MetricBeforeAfter
Average # of days from receipt of signed IFSP to service delivered by provider51 days30 days
% of IFSP services provided within 30 days94%100%
Average # of service visits scheduled outside 30 day required timeframe620
% of children assessed within 45 days or less of referral date63%100%
Average # of monthly evaluation reports submitted past deadline130