Monthly Archives: April 2013

Knowing what  (and where) the drum is for your process does not mean that you should run out and buy more capacity to fix it.  In my previous blog post, I discussed that before you react to an increase of demand and making any changes in the process, you first need to analyze the process and identify the constraint.  Only then will you know where and what to change (to change the behavior or the entire process).  So you found the constraint, now what?

Now.  RUN to the floor and ask everyone to stay for an extra shift at the drum.   No, don’t do that.  I’m kidding.

Before you start throwing more money at the situation, first find ways to make more effective use of the resources you have.  Here are a few questions that you could ask to find ways to increase output for FREE:

Do all the resources at the constraint take a break or lunch at the same time?

Often, staggering lunches and breaks at the constraint will give you a big boost.  The numbers work, too.  Let’s say you spend an hour a day for lunch and breaks.  In an 8-hour day, that’s 12.5% more output you could have for FREE.  That’s 12.5% more sales.  For FREE!

Are you able to cross train other resources to help the constraint?

If the constraint is a machine, there is one skill set to run the machine, and another to set it up.  Often running the machine is loading and unloading parts.  How hard is it to do that?  Not very.  Automation is a better choice, but often we can add a person faster.  By eliminating wait time, you get the same economics.  Remember, this is the constraint.  Every additional hour I can get at the constraint equals one hour of SALES.

Do you have existing equipment sitting idle because there is not space to set it up and use it?

Who cares if it is slower?  It makes ZERO money sitting idle.  See notes above for economic justification.  Or read this.  FREE MONEY.

What is preventing the constraint from running the whole day?

This is more of a generic utilization question; if it’s not running, it’s not helping the process.  Why isn’t it running?  What can you do to GET it running?

So you’re asking the questions.  Don’t accept answers that do not offer solutions, such as “that is the way the industry is” or “it wouldn’t work.”  Dig down deeper and find what steps would be required to increase capacity.  Then take those steps!

When Pinnacle Strategies worked with boom manufacturers to immediately boost output (in support of containing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico), more output was needed to be immediately.  Not the ideal situation to hire and train new people or to order and wait for new machines.  Our teams questioned how to improve output and then pursued the answer until a solution was found.  Read about how the improvements were found at these manufacturers and how improvements can be achieved by examining ways to use existing resources smarter and then implementing those changes in the second lesson of our eBook, Achieving Top Performance Under the Worst Conditions: 7 Lessons Learned from a Disaster. 

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What is the first thing to do to increase output when you need more, yesterday?

Often, when output needs to increase, we learn that this heightened sense of urgency creates rushed decisions and frantic behavior.  This leads to the obvious and time-tested band-ads: adding another shift, throwing overtime at the problem or buying another machine.  As many of us know, the costs of a new machine or the possibility of adding yet another shift quickly adds up costs or may not even be possible.  So how to squeeze more from the system when it seems like it’s maxed out?

Look for the part of the process that dictates the output of the process.  The part of a that is most likely to set the pace for the whole line and impose delays everywhere else.  This is the constraint, or the “drum” of the process, as it set the pace of output.

Identifying the constraint begins with one step – careful observation.  We need to analyze the process to find the bottleneck.  Ask such questions as “why do we feel that it is impossible to increase production capacity?” or “what step holds up the rest of the line?” Observe the process to see what is going on.  Just the act of asking “Why?” will point to a solution.

When there is extreme pressure to make improvements and increase capacity, wait on implementation until the system is understood.  While this seems counterproductive given the timelines we usually encounter, you’ll make more progress stepping back and working from understanding.  By identifying where first to act, you will be able to act effectively to make a bigger, more certain impact on process performance.

When Pinnacle Strategies was called by BP to help increase output critical components to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we needed to find a way to have the manufacturers increase output even after they had “maxed out” their production.  At each plant we visited, management felt that it was impossible to squeeze more output from their plants.  These manufacturers were under pressure to increase output, and with the guarantee of selling what they produce, there was also strong incentive to increase output.

Read how we looked for the drum and had amazing results in the first lesson of our eBook, Achieving Top Performance Under the Worst Conditions: 7Lessons Learned from a Disaster. 

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