Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Artificial Efficiency vs. Human Ineptitude

Of all the things one can blame for inefficiency, computerization definitely rates among the most unlikely of reasons. But still there are those who blame it for inefficiency. Last Monday, I had to renew my driver's license. Prior to 2008, renewing a driver's license was relatively painless--just go to the renewal center, perform the necessary paperwork, then claim your new license--all within an hour. Recently, the LTO required drug testing before driver's licenses may be renewed, and what once took less than an hour can now take close to 5.

The bottleneck was the drug testing part of the process. The drug testing center, on top of charging more than the cost of the license itself, had the balls to blame their slow service on--of all things--the computerization of the process, in particular the biometrics gathering procedure. They said this so in their posted notices outside the testing center itself. Never have seen anyone blame computerization and automation for causing inefficiency. In reality, it was their own inefficiency that slowed down the process.

Electronic efficiency is no substitute for human ineptitude, and here it showed. Biometrics gathering was slow not because the process itself was tedious--all it involved was acquiring the applicant's right thumb mark thrice by tapping it against a scanner, and signing one's signature on a touch pad. But there was only one computer available for processing biometrics information. On top of that, the most tedious part of the process was not done by computer getting urine samples,--and this took forever since they could only entertain one person at a time. In effect they could only process one request at a time, since the applicant had to piss first before going to the biometrics processing, and there was only one smelly and overcrowded toilet. Come time to gather the biometrics, there was only one computer. Was the machine to blame in this scenario? Definitely not.

But instead, this private drug testing firm blamed their slowness on the computer. They only have themselves to blame. The computer worked great--thing was they only had one. Instead of blaming the slow process on its computerization, they were unwilling to accept the real problem: their own ineptitude. It's common sense: if they can only process one applicant at a time, the process will slow down. Don't blame the machine.

-Entry 12, Miguel Tensuan

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