rollercoasterWritten by Erica Bassford, Engagement Leader at LI Europe.

Have you visited any theme parks recently? Got tired feet from standing still for so long in the inevitable queues? On a recent visit, after 40 minutes of standing in a very long queue, waiting to ride the next fast and furious rollercoaster, my son turned to me and said “why do we have to wait so long Mum”?

I could have said, “Because there are lots of people waiting to go on this ride”, or “Because ‘Express tickets’ get to go ahead of us” or “We just have to wait our turn” – but I didn’t. Instead it got me thinking about Bottlenecks, Cycle Time Reduction and simple Throughput, which I decided to share with my son…

First we broke the activity down or mapped the cycle: open the entry gate, load people into seats, close safety harnesses, issue safety instructions over the tannoy, check safety harness, raise harness to move small riders to left hand side, lower safety harness again, ride, release safety harness, unload people, open exit gate, close exit gate – repeat. 

I then asked my son what ideas he had to make the queue quicker and he came up with the following four ways they could optimise the cycle:

  1. Why don’t they fill all the seats?
    My son had identified that they should keep the bottleneck full at all times because every missed unit is lost forever. (Some parks have adopted the ‘single rider’ lane to cover this but alas it was not the case at this park!) 
  2. They should tell you which side the children should sit before you get in so they don’t have to keep lifting the safety harness for people to switch!
    He even suggested a picture (or visual aid) to show which side the grownups should go and ensure clear instructions are given early to prevent waste on the bottleneck machine.
  3. The man who opens the exit gate keeps getting stuck behind the people trying to leave so it’s taking ages to open the gate and let everyone out. Why don’t they open the exit gate at the same time as the safety harness is raised?
    Good question. Why not introduce concurrent activities to shorten the cycle time?
  4. Could they move the start of the queue next to the entry gate, not at the top of the 15 steps down to the entry gate?
    He’d identified that they could start activities earlier to shorten the cycle time.

If we’d achieved nothing else – by the time we had developed our shortened cycle it was finally our turn and I didn’t have to hear him ask “Why do we have to wait so long” over and over again! It didn’t however, stop him from asking to buy a fastpass ticket!

Cycle Time Reduction is a powerful tool, with the ability to increase throughput on any repetitive cycle. Are you frustrated by lack of throughput in your plant? Get in touch for some ideas of how you could shorten the cycle.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Senior Consultant at LI Europe.

StopWatchRecently, whilst running an improvement workshop, there was a delegate who turned up late every day. After a myriad of excuses and some not so light insults from his colleagues, I attempted to get to the bottom of why he was failing to turn up on time. He stated that he doesn’t have enough time to do everything he needs to do in the morning, leaves the house late and thus misses his bus.

I first suggested that he set his alarm earlier in a morning. That did not go down well at all. He craves his sleep and wanted to ensure he was fully rested for his days carrying out improvement activities in the workshop. Then I thought to myself, why not get him try to utilise one of our improvement tools in his morning routine?

Using Cycle Time Reduction (CTR) he would be able to get up at the usual time, complete his morning routine in full, leave the house on time and arrive at work promptly for the start of the workshop. Everyone is a winner!

Firstly, I got him to make a list of all the tasks he completed in a morning, how long each one took, and when they started and ended relative to the time he wakes up.

We then mapped these out visually on a Gannt chart.

I asked him to look for any critical paths i.e. any activity that needs to be completed in sequential order. Once he had identified these, we could look to see if there were any activities that could be completed whilst he was busy with other parts of his routine.

Unbelievably, we found he took his shower, prepared his lunch and then put the coffee machine on to boil. So we looked at how we could reduce the time spent on this sequence and identified an easy 8 minutes he could get back…

By putting the coffee machine to automatically boil ready for the time he finishes his shower, he could shave a vital 3 minutes from his morning routine. Fixing his lunch and packing his bag the night before would save another 5 minutes.

Making these small alterations (and a few others) to his process, our delegate was able to arrive early every day for the rest of the Workshops.

CTR can be used on any manufacturing process (continuous or non-continuous) to reduce the amount of time taken for that process to be completed. For example, it might be used to reduce the time taken for a case packer to complete its cycle or reduce the time taken for a plant to changeover between products. Applying CTR on your production line can provide significant throughput improvements.

It is a simple 3 step process

  1. Define the current cycle
  2. Map the current cycle
  3. Optimise the current cycle

For more on this tool and how to apply it, check out our Improvement Toolkit >