Success stories: Continuous process improvement at DOL

We continually use Lean and other process improvement methods to reduce waste and serve you better. Some of our recent successes include:

Processing record requests

The Department of Licensing (DOL) received over 245,000 requests for driver records in 2012. Requests can be made in a DOL office, online, by mail, and by email. The Driver Record Requests Unit fulfills these requests for the public, law enforcement, courts, school districts, insurance companies, employers, and attorneys.

In January 2013 the unit had over 2,600 requests backlogged in email, 44% of which were older than 15 days. They are committed to DOL’s strategic goals of customer focus and business efficiency so they chose to use Lean to improve their processes.


  • Reduced process steps, an improved and standardized form, newly trained staff, and new desk manuals.
  • Decreased backlogged requests from 2,600 to nearly zero: During the first month following the Lean Event the unit reduced their backlog (requests older than 15 days) by 35%. During the next six months they reduced their backlog based on that 15 day target to zero.
  • They reset their target to 7 days.  For the last 2 weeks the unit has processed all requests within 7 to 8 days.

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Issuing vehicle titles

Issuing a vehicle title is mostly a paper process that begins when a customer visits a county auditor or subagent’s office and is completed by the Department of Licensing. It was taking several weeks for customers to get their titles. As a result, frustrated customers would contact us asking where their title was. These questions accounted for a significant portion of the emails received at our Customer Service Center.

The Lean team recommended process changes so:

  • Customers get their titles faster.
  • We receive fewer calls about the status of titles, so staff can respond more quickly to other customer inquiries.
Chart of average days to process a vehicle title, showing average of 24 days before Lean event, falling to 13 days as of April 2013, and rising to 18 days as of September 2013 due to decreased staffing during that period.

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Commercial driver license test scheduling

Scheduling commercial driver license (CDL) tests involves both the Department of Licensing and commercial driving schools. The scheduling process was inconsistent, varying by the individual who was doing the scheduling and how they had been taught to do it. In addition, information about upcoming tests was sent to the Department of Licensing in a variety of formats, and was often incomplete or incorrect. This resulted in delays to confirm information and the driver’s eligibility to take the test.

The team held a Lean continuous process improvement event, and was able to greatly reduce the number of steps required to schedule a test. As a result of this event, they:

  • Developed a standardized roster of upcoming driver tests for all schools to use, which will decrease errors, data entry time, phone calls, and rework.
  • Created a checklist so staff can be sure they’re following the process correctly the first time.
  • Eliminated the 3-day notification requirement for DOL testers.

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Fuel tax refunds for bulk fuel purchasers

Some individuals and companies that buy bulk fuel don’t store the fuel in inventory, and can submit claims for fuel tax refunds later. The refund process required purchasers to submit all their fuel receipts with the refund claim, not just receipts for the fuel not inventoried. This created:

  • Extra work and mailing expenses for customers.
  • Additional customer calls.
  • Incomplete refund claims.
  • More work for our staff.
  • The need for more space to store electronic documents.

As the result of a Lean event, the Refund Unit now requires only receipts for non-inventoried fuel. They also revised the refund instructions on the website and in mailings, and updated the process steps and documentation. As a result, refund claims are processed faster.

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Customer call center

Our Customer Service Center helps all customers who contact us by phone or email. In 2012, a significant number of customers who called received a busy message or had to wait a long time to speak to a customer service representative.

After implementing the training and process changes recommended by the Lean team:

  • More calls are answered.
  • Fewer customers receive a busy message.
  • Call wait time is shorter.
Chart of customer service center average call wait times showing average of 18 minutes before Lean event, falling to 4 minutes as of September 2013.

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Accident reports and driver records

The Driver Records Accident Unit ensures all information on accident reports is verified and the driver’s record is updated appropriately. The unit saw that too many hours were being spent on research, duplicative processes, and unnecessary handoffs. These barriers combined with a lack of database access for staff were contributing to longer transaction times and customer dissatisfaction.

Everyone on the team can now access the database, purge accidents, and remove plate suspensions. In addition, additional members of the unit have received the required training to access out-of-state driver information. As a result, the team can access the information they need immediately so they can update driver records more efficiently.

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IRP cancellation and reinstatement

The International Registration Plan (IRP) allows commercial vehicle owners to license vehicles in more than one state or province. If an IRP customer’s account is canceled for cause, they must go through the reinstatement process. Different staff members were involved in various steps of the process, but didn’t know the entire process. This resulted in processing delays, inconsistencies, and errors. Sometimes it compromised customer service and delayed commercial vehicle operators from getting their license back.

The team improved 2 letters for customers, answering potential questions about the cancellation and reinstatement process in the body of the letter. This eliminated the need for a checklist and FAQ that used to be sent to customers, reducing waste and improving customer service. The team continues to update their processes and training materials.

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Processes for new employees

The processes for establishing personnel records and benefits for new employees were inefficient. Steps overlapped, and there was a lack of standardization, communication, and understanding of each work group’s responsibilities.

The team reviewed their processes to improve their communication tools and reduce steps, handoffs, and waiting times. As a result:

  • Paper and printing costs have been reduced.
  • The team is able to process new employees much more quickly.
  • Service to new employees and transfers has been improved.

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Executive correspondence

The process for responding to questions from constituents was inefficient, which resulted in a slower response time and decreased customer satisfaction.

The team found ways to greatly reduce handoffs and created a desk manual to provide a consistent process. As a result the number of days required to respond to customers was cut in half.

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Contractual access to vehicle information

The process for getting a contract to access the Internet Vehicle Vessel Information Processing System was cumbersome and time consuming. This created inefficiencies in staffing hours and resulted in decreased customer satisfaction.

The team streamlined the contract and decided to stop mailing contract renewal notifications. This saved staff time and reduced paper, printing, and postage costs. Signature authority was also granted to a 2nd person to reduce the time required to authorize a new contract.

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See also:

Washington Healthcare Finder
Access Washington