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I open my eyes Saturday morning to see my son, Dave, dressed in a Boy Scout uniform. He is shaking my arm. “Davey what are you doing here?” I ask. He says, “Dad, it’s seven o’clock!” “Seven o’clock? I’m trying to sleep.” “We’ll be late,” he says. “WE will be late? For what?” “For the overnight hike!” he says. “Remember? You promised me I could volunteer you to go along and help the troopmaster.” An hour and ten minues later, my son and I arrive at the edge of some forest. Waiting for us is the troop: 15 boys outfitted in caps, neckerchiefs, merit badges, the works. Well, at first I’m a little mad at having all this foisted upon me. But then the idea of having to supervise a bunch of kids doesn’t daunt me – after all, I do that every day at the plant. So I gather everyone around. We look at a map and discuss objectives for this expedition into the perilous wilderness before us. The plan I learn, is for the troop to hike through the forest following a blazed trail to someplace called “Devil’s Gulch, 10 miles away” There we are to bivouac for the evening. In the morning we are to break camp and make our way back to the point of departure. So I line up the troop. Map in hand, I put myself at the front of the line in order to lead the way, and off we go. The weather is fantastic. The sun is shining through the trees. The skies are blue. It’s breezy and the temperature is a little on the cool side, but once we get into the woods, it’s just right for walking. The trail is easy to follow because there are blazes (splotches of yellow paint) on the tree trunks every 10 yards or so. I suppose I’m walking at about 2 miles/hour, which is about how fast the average person walks. At this rate, I think to myself, we should cover 10 miles in about 5 hours. My watch tells me it is 8:30 am. Allowing an hour and a half for breaks and lunch, we should arrive at Devil’s Gulch by 3 o’clock, no sweat. After a few minutes, I turn and look back. The column of scouts has spread out to some degree frm the close spacing we started with. Instead of a yard or so between the boys, there are now larger gaps, some a little larger than others. I keep walking. I look back again after a few hundred yards, and the column is stretched out much farther, and a couple of big gaps have appeared. I can barely see the kid at the end of the line. I decide it’s better if I’m at the end of the line instead of at the front. That way I know I’ll be able to keep an eye on the whole column, and make sure nobody gets left behind. So I wait for the first boy to catch up to me, and I ask him his name. “I’m Ron,” he says. “Ron, I want you to lead the column,” I tell him, handing over the map. “Just keep following this trail, and set a moderate pace. Okay?” “Right, Mr. Rogo.”
I did not understand what he was trying to make out of those two items he described. for a second. and most of the time. I look down the trail and I see this fat kid. He already looks a little winded. unless we’re going over a hill or around a sharp bend in the trail. Mr. Obviously we have dependent events in manufacturing. all of them keeping up without any problems. The line stretches out in front of me. Behind him is the rest of the troop. “Boy it’s hot out. waves. So I take some bigger steps to catch up.“Everybody stay behind Ron!” I call back to the others. “You okay. goes by talking with a friend who walks close behind him. another. Parts are made in a sequence of steps. It’s a simple case of dependent events. He’s a few feet farther ahead of me than he was a minute ago. I wait by the side of the trail as the troop passes. more or less. Herbie?” “Oh. Everybody understands. a trail has to be walked. All it means is that one operation has to be done before a second operation can be performed. Rogo.2 miles/hour. So does the hike we’re taking now. The product has to be assembled before we can ship it and so on. My son. Machine A has to finish step 1 before worker B can proceed with step 2. All the parts have to be finished before we can assemble the product. Dave. Sometimes I’ll be going 2. In order to arrive at Devil’s Gulch. The rate is going to fluctuate according to the length and speed of each step. so I slow down. even larger gap has occurred. What’s the big deal? If I say that I’m walking at the rate of 2 miles/hour I don’t mean I’m walking exactly at a constant rate of two miles per hour every instant. And statistical fluctuations? I look up and notice that the boy in front of me has going a little faster than I have been. sometimes maybe I’ll be walking at only 1.” says Herbie. I can see everybody. How long does it take to solder the wire leads on a transformer? Well if you get out your stopwatch and time . Davey has to walk the trail before Herbie can walk it. After them.” says the fat kid. Five or six more come along. But you find dependent events in any process.’statistical fluctuations’ – so what? They’re both quite mundane. because he’s got the map. Ron has to walk the trail before Davey can walk it. the boy in front of me has to walk it first. “What’s your name?” I ask as the fat kid draws closer.I begin to think about the conversation I had with Jonah in New York. The same thing happens in the plant. isn’t it?” Herbie continues up the trail and the others follow. “Nobody passes Ron. but over time and distance. …. I haven’t had any time to think about that. I fall in behind the last boy. I should be averaging about 2 miles/hour.5 miles/hour. sure. ‘dependent events’…. Then. The column seems to settle into a comfortable rhythm…. I would have recorded statistical fluctuations. There: if I’d been measuring my stride. Up front. In order for me to walk the trail. I mean. followed by a couple more scouts. Driving a car requires a sequence of dependent events. I’m too close to him. “Herbie. Then there is a gap. but they can’t get around Herbie. Some of them look as if they’d like to go fastre. and not just those in a factory. Understand?” Everybody nods.
The kids are yelling at him to hurry up. couldn’t be. Herbie is slowing down. so I can see everyone. The others continue the climb. Ron. “HEY RON!” I shout. is indeed setting a steady. but the actual time on any given instance may range between 2. Dammit. I cup my hands over my mouth and yell “HEY! LETS GO UP THERE! LET’S CLOSE RANKS!” “DOUBLE TIME! DOUBLE TIME!” Herbie eases into a trot.” I say.1 minutes up to 6. I look down the trail.” I tell them. After a couple of hundred yards we still haven’t caught up. and I trudge behind them until I get to the top. I look back down the line. turns and looks back.” Nobody can predict that information. If we are all walking at about the same pace. at the end of the line. “But I did!” he protests. The fluctuations should be averaging out. we don’t have any choice. Half the troop is liable to get lost if we can’t stay together. increasing? Statistical fluctuations? Nah. let’s say. we’re going to be running and stopping all day long if this keeps up. “Well. I’m huffing and puffing along. fairly steep hill. Herbie. Finally I can see Ron off in the distance. ‘average’ pace for the troop – a pace nobody should have any trouble with. Nobody in advance can say. We’ve slowed down somewhat. The distance between Ron and me should also expand . Herbie!” I say to encourage him. Herbie? He’s not the problem anymore. and all of the boys are walking at about the same rate as Ron. I’ve got to put an end to this. slows to a fast walk. “Atta boy. Ron though. 4. The first one I check is Ron. Holy cow! Where’s Ron? He must be half a mile ahead of us. gaps between the boys are widening. and me. who probably heard the call the first time. “Let’s keep it moving!” Herbie his face red from the climb disappears over the crest. you might find that it takes. because now he seems to be making a special effort to keep up. seeing relief in sight. Maybe he felt responsible for the last delay.1 minutes…this one will take 5. Pausing there. “This one will take 2. “HOLD UP!” The call is relayed up the trail by the other boys. So what’s wrong with that? Nothing as far as I can see. It’s because we’re climbing a long. And so do the rest of us. and everyone else is lost in the distance. The line is spreading out. I thought I told you to set a moderate pace. The kids behind him start to run. I can see a couple of boys in front of Herbie. We are all moving at about the same speed. We haven’t gone thirty yards before I notice it starting all over again. at the front of the line.3 minutes on the average. I find I’m almost stepping on the boy in front of me. so that should mean the distance between any of us will vary somewhat. Anyway. “Ron.the operation over and over again. The trail is straight here.4 minutes. why is the distance between Ron. What else are we going to use in place of an ‘average’ or an ‘estimate’. let’s just all stay together next time. We start out again. but will even out over a period of time. All of us are backed up behind Herbie….8 minutes. I jog after them.
What’s happening isn’t an averaging out of the fluctuations in our various speeds. Even if I could walk 5 miles/hour. the troop does produce a product. But what happens when someone moves faster than Ron? Aren’t the longer or faster steps supposed to make up for the slower ones? Don’t the differences average out? Suppose I walk faster. A gap of ten…fifteen…twenty feet opens up. I have to move faster than average for a distance equal to all the excess space between all the boys.and contract within a certain range. Ince I’ve closed the gap between us. However. the length of the column is increasing. That’s when I begin to understand what’s happening. But it isn’t. To make the total length of the line contract. Every time someone moves slower than Ron. Mostly it is an accumulation of slowness – because dependency limits the opportunities for higher fluctuations. the line lengthens. If one of the boys takes a step that’s half an inch shorter than the one Ron took. As long as each of us is maintaining a normal moderate pace like Ron. So I have to slow down to his rate. there is no limit on my ability to slow down. which is the . Or on anyone’s ability to slow down. we produce “walked trail. However. He’s adjusting his packstraps. Ron is setting the pace. The gaps between us are expanding. It’s starting to make sense. So I’ve got limits on how fast I can go. I see Davey slow down for a few seconds. Our speeds depend upon the speeds of those in front of us in the line. the length of the whole line could be affected.” Ron begins production by consuming the unwalked trail before him. Even if the kid directly in front of me could walk that fast. but should average out about the same throughout the hike. Or stop. Why aren’t all of us being able to walk the same pace as Ron and stay together? I’m watching the line when something up ahead catches my eye. Our hike is a set of dependent events…in combination with statistical fluctuations. That is why the line is spreading. I can reduce the gap – and maybe reduce the total length of the line. I can’t go any faster than the rate at which the kid in front of me is going. It wouldn’t even have to be as obvious as when Dave slowed down. Each of us is fluctuating in speed. faster and slower. The entire line has grown by 20 feet. Can I shorten the length of the line? Between me and the kid ahead of me is a gap of about 5 feet. Ron continues onward. We can make the line shrink only by having everyone in the back of the line move much faster than Ron’s average over some distance. I can only do that until I’m bumping the kid’s rucksack (and if I did that he’d sure as hell tell his mother). In fact. oblivious. In front of him. I have to make up for the accumulation of all their slowness. There are both dependent events and statistical fluctuations. This troop of boys is analogous to a manufacturing system…sort of a model. If he continues walking at the same rate. and he in turn can’t go any faster than the kid in front of him and so on up the line to Ron. but an accumulation of the fluctuations. I couldn’t do it if the boy in front of me could only walk 2 miles/hour. neither of us could do it unless all the boys in the line were moving at 5 miles/hour at the same time. and if I speed up. If any of us did the line would extend indefinitely.
Ron processes the trail first by walking over it. go back to step 1. If the distance between Ron and me is expanding. Each of us is like an operation which has to be performed to produce a product in the plant. so we have dependent events no matter if we switch the order of the boys. Identify the system's constraints. and so on back to Herbie and the others and on to me. then you have statistical fluctuation. So as the slower than average fluctuations acumulate. . the value of an insurance claim must be determined before the claim check is processed. The flow of work into any station depends on the timely completion of the work in previous stations. Ony after I have walked the trail is the product ‘sold’ so to speak. If a constraint has been broken. and patient insurance status should be confirmed before a hospital room is assigned. the scout in front of him has to have already moved forward. This problem is well discussed in the quality literature and reduction in this fluctuation is a necessary condition for just-in-time inventory systems. which in our case qould be the energy the boys need to walk. I am the last operation. Wood must be sanded before it is painted.equivalent of raw materials. it can only mean that inventory is increasing. Which is influenced by the fluctuating rates of the others. If there is variation within and between the steps in the processes in your organization. That would have to be our throughput. so the trail the rest of us are walking is inventory until it passes behind me. In order for any scout to move forward. 2. Steps that are later in the process must wait for all earlier steps to be completed. Statistical Fluctuation and Dependence Compare the hike to most production and service processes. 4. then Davey has to process it next. Does it matter what order we are in? Well somebody has to be first and somebody else has to be last. but the rate at which I do. Ron is consuming raw materials. followed by the boy behind him. I can’t really quantify that for the model. And what is operational expense? It’s whatever lets us turn inventory into throughput. Elevate the system's constraints 5. Throughput is my rate of walking. they work their way back to me. Which means that. What about the amount of trail between Ron and me? It has to be inventory. Subordinate everything else to the above decision. not the rate at which Ron walks the trail. Decide how to exploit the system's constraints. If the steps in the process must be done in a particular order then the process steps have dependence. relative to the growth of inventory. throughput for the entire system goes down. This is the narrow trail / no passing assumption in our analogy. 3. each of us is one of a set of dependent events. Five Steps Here are the steps in the improvement process 1. except that I know when I’m getting tired.
The problem lies with the operations that precede the constraint. then there will either be delays that reduce throughput or increases in work in process inventory. then this system should work. where raw materials are released into the system to keep workers busy and keep efficiencies high on each resource in the system. but is set at or above the average. When Herbie is slower than his average he slows down the arrival by exactly as much as in the previous example. While reported efficiencies are high. You can think of this as a Just-in-Case system. The operations that follow the constraint should have enough slack capacity to keep up with the pace of the constrained resource. When he moves faster than his average speed. If there is dependence then Herbie cannot be moved to the front of the line. in effect. which dictates when and what material is supposed to be processed by what resource. Assembly Lines. The drumbeat in a manufacturing setting is the production schedule. a drum beating a cadence that the constraint can keep up with. The carrying cost on this inventory increases OE. With no one in front of Herbie to constrain his performance. Work in Process inventory is high so that down time on any portion of the system does not endanger current production. The scouts that are ahead of Herbie are not constrained by his slow pace. he is able to move at his average speed. these operations will move ahead and produce excess WIP inventory. it becomes obvious that the production schedule must be dictated by the abilities of the constrained resource. ROI and CF. at least eventually. They are free to proceed at their own pace. Once you realize that the troop cannot move faster than the constraint. Like the fast scouts at the front of the line who move ahead and produce gaps. and therefore threatens future Throughput. In this case the cadence is not set to the slowest worker. this system has a detrimental effect on NI. ROI. the whole troop can move faster because all of the scouts behind him can catch up.Some Possible Solutions Herbie Leads If you want the scouts to arrive together and to arrive as quickly as possible. A possibility for keeping the front of the line from running away from the rest of the operations is. reduces NI. CF and OE. High levels of inventory reduce the company's ability to respond to changing customer demands. Expeditors and additional managerial attention are often needed to push work through the slower workstations. one possible alternative is to have Herbie lead the troop. If every production resource can produce to match the production schedule. If they cannot. Balanced Lines and JIT (Ropes) . Sometimes the drum system is used in a push inventory system. Production Schedule (Drums) There are steps in most processes that depend on other processes having already been completed.
Transfer batch sizes are low. it has a potentially devastating effect on current throughput. The capacities of the departments are . A Simple Example Consider a process that has three sequential steps performed by three departments. Lengthening the rope connecting the constraint to the first process creates the buffer. Successful JIT systems often require years of work to reduce the variability that naturally occurs in the process. Here the cadence is set by market demand for finished goods.The next possibility is a rope connecting each scout. Since production is driven by demand rather than warehouse capacity. the material produced is Throughput and not stored finished goods. These processes are constrained to run at the same speed as Herbie but are allowed to run slightly ahead. In this system Herbie sets the cadence in that the production schedule is determined with the goal of matching the capacity of the constrained resource. any problem that occurs at any point in the process can bring the entire system to a halt. The problem with this type of system is the existence of statistical fluctuations. A problem with any of these workstations in a Just-in-Time system causes Herbie to shut down and reduces throughput for the system. as is WIP inventory. Therefore neither the first resource nor any other resource that precedes the constraint can produce excess inventory. This is effectively what you get with an assembly line or a production line where attempts have been made to balance the capacity of each workstation. What is needed is a buffer of work in process inventory that will allow the earlier processes to catch up before the constraint runs out of work. Step A requires 9 minutes to complete. Drum-Buffer-Rope (DBR) What we need is a system that has low inventory and avoids downtime. While this may have a focusing effect for managers interested in solving production problems. The Theory of Constraints literature suggests a system called Drum-Buffer-Rope (DBR). Downtime on processes that follow the constraint is not a problem because they have sufficient excess capacity to catch up with the constrained resource. The rope connects the constrained resource to the first resource in the process. again because they have more than enough capacity to process everything that Herbie hands them. The production schedule releases material to the first operation at exactly the rate that the constrained resource can process it. Step C requires 8 minutes. The speed of the line beats the cadence and the structure of the line connects the workers to each other. Step B requires 10 minutes. With minimal work in process. There should be no build up of excess WIP inventory for these processes. The same system also describes just in time inventory systems.
7. On the other hand. Idle time in B reduces productive capacity for the entire system. Suppose we correct the cadence and set it at the capacity of B.67 units per hour. Department C will process everything that they receive. Conclusion Both a pure drum system and a pure rope system have the same goal: the efficient operation of the system. This process is now running as a balanced assembly line with inventory arriving just in time.6. Each step in the process tries to operate at its locally optimal level. The pure rope system pulls inventory through. material is released to allow department A to replenish it to a safe level of work in process. every minute of downtime or idle time in department B reduces throughput by 1/10th of a unit. Within limits. What is the capacity of the organization? It is the capacity of the slowest department. We have lost 9 minutes of capacity for the entire plant. if A is late getting back from lunch.5 units per hour respectively. if A's equipment has a mechanical failure. and we can calculate how much work in process inventory department B needs to have in their receiving area to sustain them while A catches up. Department A will be working at capacity. and hands the unit to B who processes it and hands it to C. we can estimate the magnitude of problems that department A might encounter. down time and idle time in departments A and C have no impact on capacity. A inspects the unit in the last few seconds of the process. or if natural variation causes A to produce at a rate slower than average for any reason. For this example assume that 3 units are sufficient for A to catch up from any problems that they might encounter. Improving the productivity of either department A or C has no effect on organizational capacity. First suppose that the system in place is the simple drum and the cadence is set at the average capacity of the three machines. We would allow department A to produce at their maximum capacity until they had accumulated 3 units of work in process. What happens if A discovers that they have produced a defective unit? B and C have to wait while A produces a replacement. Inventory is pushed into the system to try to keep all resources engaged. They differ in their underlying assumptions. and to eliminate costs associated with carrying inventory and with slow response times to changing customer demands.5 = 80% of capacity). Based on historical information. 6. Inventory will pile up in department B's receiving area at a rate of 0. but will be in trouble with management for low efficiencies (6/7. and seeks to reduce WIP inventory to eliminate potential quality and dependability problems hidden in large inventory pools. around 6. Whenever the buffer falls below the desired level.67. We will have a similar problem if a supplier delivers the material late. and 7. Every 10 minutes A receives enough raw materials to make one unit. At that point they would have filled the buffer and hit the end of their rope. The pure drum system wants WIP inventory to protect against down time. They would now receive only enough raw materials to produce one unit every 10 minutes. The Theory of .
and eliminated where it is not needed to lower cost and improve response to customer demand . Inventory is accumulated where it is needed to avoid system down time.Constraints approach accomplishes the goals of each of these systems using the Drum-Buffer-Rope method.
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