My colleagues brought me to this famous Mee Pok stall at Blk 710 Clementi West Street 2. I didn’t know much about it until I started queuing with one of my colleague and he told me the stall is ran by Japanese. The stall owner is Kuribara-san and assisted by his 18-year old daughter. A brief history is that he learnt the technique of making Mee Pok from a local Singaporean before he retired.
Correct orders and demand-driven – Kanban Cards
It was lunch time and we queued for over 30mins. There was quite a considerable crowd before us. As I approached closer to the stall, I noticed this fascinating technique that they employed. The girl will take the order from us and write on these small cards (kanban cards). This will allow a person to order on behalf of a group of people and still customize their orders. The checklist will ensure the Kuribara-san prepare the order according to what the customer requested. And there is proper sequence based on first-in and first-out techniques.
She will collect the payment amount upon order and the card will be placed in the kanban queue. As can be seen below, Kuribara-san is moving on to his next order. Each time the order is fulfilled, she will remove the card and place it back on the table and wipe it clean. Thereafter she will shift the next order forward.
There will be a maximum of 5 kanban cards facing towards Kuribara-san at anyone time. You may wonder why it is so. There maybe some delays from the young girl in removing the cards as she maybe taking orders, filling the soup, handing the tray over and so on. The 5 kanban cards will also provide enough buffer if each one of the cards contain a single order.
They understand the main value-added activity is food processing and that is also the bottleneck operation.
On top of using the kanban for Kuribara-san order processing. Customers will also be able to know whether their order is coming up next from the translucent cards. They can see the quantity and item ordered by standing next in line.
This method will ensure a variety of large orders coming in, but they are still able to deliver according to customer orders with little or zero mistakes. Secondly, customers will be assured that their orders are in the queue and they will expect what is coming up next.
Kuribara-san (main preparation workstation) is able to prepare 2 orders concurrently. You will notice the 2 scoop from the soup. If you were to stand there and observe, you will notice there is a very strong consistent approach at how Kuribara-san prepares the Mee Pok. The time spent on each operation and the technique used are extremely precise. I did not do time check but from observation, there is a very strong consistency.
I spoke to one of my colleague and he mentioned the Kuribara-san previously mentioned to the media that he prepare each order with sincerity. When I heard it, I was truly touched. This is the core spirit of the Japanese: to give one’s best in delivering the best quality work.
This is truly one of the best Mee Pok stall I have visited in Singapore. And I’m truly impressed at how a coffeeshop stall is able to apply kanban techniques and standard work in delivering great food for fellow Singaporeans.