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City of San Diego Teams up With UC San Diego Extension to Improve Customer Service and Increase Productivity


Thanks to a new connection between the University of California San Diego Extension and the City of San Diego, 911 wait times were reduced, street light maintenance was expedited and customer service for libraries and infrastructure projects were improved. These changes resulted from city staff members’ participation in process improvement training known as Lean Six Sigma at UC San Diego Extension.

Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement program that companies around the globe use to identify problems and deliver data-driven solutions. Almis Udrys, director of the city’s Performance and Analytics Department, said he saw the UC San Diego Extension’s Lean Six Sigma training as a way to help city staff begin to look at the problems facing the City of San Diego in new ways.

“I see this training as opening a door to a new culture at the city – a culture that embraces innovation, data-enabled decision making and a commitment to continuous improvement,” Udrys said. “It really is an extension of Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s vision for a city government that is as innovative as the people it serves. Investing in this training is investing in the future by ensuring staff have the tools and insights to drive meaningful change. We’re looking forward to taking the lessons our team learned and deploying them citywide for the benefit of more San Diegans.”

The City of San Diego sent seven people through the 16-week program. The projects resulted in a variety of improvements, including:

Reduced emergency call times: By revising the information input screen and automating a portion of the call process, a working group from the Fire-Rescue Department was able to reduce the length of 90 percent of calls received by 16 seconds in the first few months – a 16 percent improvement compared to the same time period a year ago. The city calculated that the reduced call times had the potential to save an estimated additional 22 lives annually.  

Improved library material delivery:  To reduce the wait times for library patrons to receive requested books and other materials, one team analyzed how to improve the material sorting process. By identifying and cutting out a step in the sorting process that consumed a significant amount of time and motion, the team was able to come up with a simplified process to increase their productivity by 42 percent, which was valued at an estimated $121,953 of annual cost avoidance in terms of staff time.

Faster street light maintenance: A team from the Transportation and Storm Water Department created a new workflow system that reduced the lead time for street light maintenance by about three days and resulted in an estimated $15,000 in savings. In follow-on phases, further efficiencies will be gained via the elimination of paper work order forms.

Improved operations at the Public Works Customer Service Center: By eliminating paper forms, transitioning to newer technologies and eliminating unnecessary steps in the process, a team from the Transportation and Storm Water Department was able to shorten the time it takes to handle customer complaints. The changes also resulted in an estimated cost avoidance of around $113,000 per year and improved communication with customers.

“The results of this program really add up, which is why Mayor Faulconer and the City Council have been so supportive of our efforts,” Udrys said. “Every productivity gain, no matter how small, means a better experience for each resident, in line with the city’s mission to effectively serve and support our San Diego community.”

Hugo Villar, director of business, science and technology at UC San Diego Extension, said the partnership with the City of San Diego is part of Extension’s larger mission to ensure organizations and individuals have the skills they need to bolster the region’s economy and quality of life.

“In this rapidly changing world, we know employees need to constantly add new skills to advance their careers and to benefit the organizations where they work,” Villar said. “Our Lean Six Sigma courses enable people to identify problems and come up with innovative solutions. It was a pleasure to work with the City of San Diego to deliver this education and training to its employees.”