Rebalance Resources to Maximize Flow

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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