Exiting Ford Field – The Implication of Design on Flow
Well, the Lions almost did it. The offence was ugly, painful for even the most die hard of Lions fans to stomach. The defense was sensational however, and they were able to keep the team in the game right up until the last 30 seconds. The game was lost when Carolina scored and the Lions were unable to convert on their last drive. No surprise for most, but it did pose a new challenge for the fans.
Not only were the fans forced to reconcile their disappointment with their ‘love to hate' team, but they also had to find a way to negotiate their way out of a mostly full stadium. The close game had kept most fans in their seats to the end, deferring the usual slow trickle of fans leaving throughout the 4th Quarter. The poor play of the Lions did not serve its usual function of relieving pedestrian congestion on the way out.
I'm commenting without any hard stats, but I'm sure most Detroiters will agree that this is likely the first such occurrence in the short history of Ford Field. Complicating the situation even further, Wireless Giant was giving out T-shirts just outside the stadium.
As I moved through the ‘herd' and listened to the heckling of the crowd I was surprised at how quickly the subject of jokes and jibes shifted from the performance of quarterback Joey Harrington to the terrible layout of exit paths from the stadium.
Fans from both the upper & lower decks converged at one large curved exit with several doors facing a number of directions around the curve from South to East. On top of trying to find and make their way to the free t-shirts, some fans exiting the South side doors needed to head East. Of course the inverse was also true as well as several people who weren't exactly sure which way they needed to head.
One sure lesson that can be taken from the slow moving mob of a mess that ensued is in the power of free t-shirts. The other lesson, more applicable to this discussion is how the flow was restricted by the physical layout of the stadium.
The same constraints can be seen in manufacturing environments. Physical layout is as critical an element when designing for one piece flow. Put quite simply, if there is no where to go you won't have flow – even if the next stage in the process is “pulling”.
I can also think of several examples where the reverse is true and physical layout affects the efficiency of queuing processes. (like waiting to go through security on the way into the stadium!)
I wonder if there will be any lessons learned from yesterday's game that will help Super bowl organizers before the Big Game in Detroit this February? Of course this assumes that there is a continuous improvement mindset and that their view of customer satisfaction includes time after the game when beer concessions are closed.