“Engaging event-based volunteers is a critical part of our strategy to streamline our disaster relief efforts by using local volunteers in the affected areas.  TSSC helped us rethink how we structure our work so that we can put more people to work more efficiently and effectively.  This increased volunteer engagement will speed the relief to the families we serve." – Keith Alvey, Division Disaster Executive, American Red CrossRebuild Joplin

Situation

The American Red Cross relies on a group of certified volunteers when providing disaster relief. These registered and trained volunteers have experience working with the organization and travel from their city of origin to provide help in disaster-affected areas. Event-based volunteers are people who live in the city where a disaster occurs. They typically need to undergo classroom training before going into the field, which can be both time consuming and frustrating for those eager to help right away.

Improvements/Opportunities

Event-based volunteers, for the most part, spend an average of 2 1/2 hours getting trained for a number of different jobs. For many, this is burdensome – volunteers want to help, not spend that much time in a classroom. American Red Cross was faced with the question of how to harness that local community spirit and give these volunteers a great experience?

May 22, 2013. Moore, Oklahoma. Resident Ashley Sylvester awaits her husband’s return from military service in Afghanistan while she cleans the remains of their home. After seeing a familiar face when Red Cross volunteers visited her neighborhood, Sylvester hugs her friend Harriet Wingo. Photo by Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross
May 22, 2013. Moore, Oklahoma. Resident Ashley Sylvester awaits her husband’s return from military service in Afghanistan while she cleans the remains of their home. After seeing a familiar face when Red Cross volunteers visited her neighborhood, Sylvester hugs her friend Harriet Wingo. Photo by Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross

Also, by better utilizing event-based volunteers, there will be a cost reduction due to the fact that fewer registered volunteers will have to be transported to the site of the disaster.

Execution

Toyota has helped the American Red Cross learn and adapt basic concepts of the Toyota Production System (TPS) with the goal of maximizing the utilization impact and improving the personal experience of event-based volunteers.

The Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC), in collaboration with members of the American Red Cross went into action, taking aim at the amount of time spent on volunteer registration and training. The new model turned the table – instead of being trained for a number of jobs, then going out to the disaster site, volunteers now were placed in a holding area, then moved to the field. Training for a specific job then took place. By conducting mock run-throughs with American Red Cross staff acting as volunteers, the new process cut the amount of time spent on registration and training. Also, mock runs were made on the first of many volunteer tasks – the setting up of portable cots. This, too, cut the amount of time per cot by utilizing standardized work procedures.

Results

By defining the goal and implementing TPS, initial results include:

  • Registration of event-based volunteers: cut from 45 minutes to 15 minutes;
  • Training of event-based volunteers: cut from 2 ½ hours to 15 minutes;
  • Cot construction: decreased from 5 minutes per cot to 1.4 minutes;
  • Event-based volunteers now get out into the community much faster, which leads to a more positive experience. Plus, a yet-to-be determined cost savings will result from better utilizing local volunteers, rather than bringing in volunteers from other areas.

Through TPS, the large jobs were broken into many small tasks which resulted in a higher efficiency.