A friend called yesterday, asking for some input on a kaizen event she was going to run soon. Upon inquiry, the goal of the kaizen was to standardize a particular assembly process. We talked about the goal and then I suggested she measure both the entire process and the individual steps of the process in seconds, not minutes. Long pause. "Really?" she said.
Which got me thinking...just why did I say that? Why was it obvious to me and seemed to be an "ahaaaa" to my friend?
· Seconds have more precision than decimal minutes. Her process needed to get to a cycle time of a little over four minutes. That's a coarse measure. It was better to describe it as 239 seconds.
· Seconds provide a good unit for addition. It is difficult to add minutes and seconds. And with a total target time of 239 seconds and at least 12 steps in the process, it makes sense to measure all of them in seconds, then just add. Works well on a calculator.
· Seconds are then easy to build into the process with some timing mechanism. Implementation flows from the event more easily.
· We aren't used to thinking in seconds. Thus, it jogs our minds in a way that build creativity.
· Seconds have symbolic importance. If I measure something I seconds, it means seconds are important. If I measure it in minutes, then only the minutes are critical. When my high school track coach suggested he'd be better off timing me with a calendar rather than a stopwatch, he said something clearly about my foot speed. The units we use matter.
I hope this is helpful.