Efficiency at the DMV

Yes, I’m shocked as well. 🙂 This morning I had to go into the Department of Motor Vehicles for the first time in several years, and was surprised to find that they’d actually worked out a very efficient system for handling people as they came in. I don’t know if this is standard across the California DMV, or if it’s specific to the Laguna Hills office, but I was impressed.

It’s a 2-stage system, starting with a single line, then a set of take-a-number queues running in parallel.

  1. Everyone starts in a single line leading to a “Directory” desk. The clerk at this desk handles initial questions and hands out the appropriate forms.
  2. You fill out the forms, then go back to the desk without standing in line again.
  3. The directory desk assigns you a number in one of several queues, depending on the type of service you need (ID, license, registration, testing, etc.).
  4. They call your number and send you to an open window.

The thing that impressed me was step 2. They have you fill out the forms before they assign you to a queue. That means that you won’t get caught half-way through the form when your number is called, so clerks at the windows don’t have to wait around while you finish filling things out. That means they can handle more people in the same amount of time.

The only problem I noticed with this part of the system was that it wasn’t clear where to go if you had an appointment.

Well, that and the occasional clueless visitor. I felt really stupid after marveling at the simple optimization, then discovering when I got to the window that I’d missed a section. 😳

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