Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Seconds Matter

Seconds Matter


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.


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