(Writer's note: This article was written in February 2004.)
ATLANTA, GA - What started out as an OFI (Opportunity for Improvement) has become, quite possibly, the most defining moment of greatness in the history of Turner Broadcasting.
On November 14, 2003, Tom Royco made a routine trip to the vending machine. However, what happened to this veteran Broadcast Coordinator is anything but routine. As he watched his Lance Toastchee Crackers fall haplessly to its cruel inflexible destination below, he knew what awaited him when he was to pull his delicious treat from the vending slot: Broken Crackers.
It's a story old as time. You remove your bounty from the machine and you find the shattered remains of a once whole cracker.
It was at this time when Royco had an epiphany: "Wouldn't it only make sense to soften the blow of our snacks and drinks? How many other people were affected by these broken crackers?"
Before he could suggest an answer to his nefarious problem, he needed to think it through. Time after time good ideas are shot down due to a lack of research, facts and figures. He conducted a series of experiments using the snack time favorite Van-O Lunch Cookies (by Lance.) Coming in at a net weight of 1 3/4 ounces, it was Royco's hypothesis that each time a cookie package is released, the cookie that makes impact would partially shatter, resulting in at least 1/10 ounce of inedible crumb. Compound that with the fact that you now have one cookie with exposed vanilla crème and you've got a recipe for unsatisfied customers. And unsatisfied customers at work leads to poor employee performance.
At the conclusion of his experiments his hypothesis was proven to be correct in nine out of ten trials. What happened in the tenth trial, you ask? Results were inconclusive due to the snack getting stuck in the machine.
Royco then spoke to his coworkers. He conducted surveys and was given this feedback by one employee: "The next time I open a soda and it explodes on me I'm going to go berserk!"
His problem had now become a giant ball of yarn that was unraveling by the minute. When sodas exploded, precious liquid goodness was wasted, ruining clothing and tarnishing our beautiful carpet tile. He approached a member of Facilities - who wished to remain anonymous - to get their outlook: "Those carpet tiles aren't cheap! Constantly replacing those is driving our profit margins into the toilet! Now I really need to get back to work. I have a lot of perfectly good lunches to throw away before I can clean the refrigerator."
So the results were in and the fact was that the landing area in the soda and snack machines needed some sort of cushion to avoid these problems in the future. Royco took it upon himself to call the president of HappyTime Vending and offer his solution to their mounting problem. Jim Henley had this to say: "Look, we feel that the current landing areas in our machines are more than adequate. If a snack breaks or a soda explodes once in a while, there's nothing we can do about it. That's just the way the cookie crumbles."
Not being one to rest, Royco took all of his data and compiled it into the single most complete and magnificent OFI ever suggested. Immediately, cushions were added to the vending machines throughout Time Warner and just three months later the results are astounding. Morale is up, operator errors have fallen to an all-time low, and most importantly, bellies are full. This is just another example of how small ideas can turn into great accomplishments.