Taking Time out of Making Glasses


Everyone knows by now that you can get glasses “in about an hour.” I read about them recently in a magazine, this was the quote:

“…company was founded and flourished because two entrepreneurs discovered a secret… before LensCrafters, buying a new pair of glasses involved… waiting several days or weeks for the prescription to be filled at a lab. The secret was that it really took the labs only one hour to do the work.”

I don't know if that is really a secret if you understand lean thinking. When you look at the percentage of a total process cycle time (from order to customer receipt), you know that a very small amount is actually value added. This percentage is typically even less than 1% of the time. 1 hour of VA time (and I'm sure not all 60 minutes are value added) out of 5 days to get the glasses, that's 1/(5 * 24) = 0.8% value-added.

This was true in eye glasses, until the innovation of placing the glasses lab right on site at the store. You can even get an eye exam right there and avoid an extra trip or drive. How very lean! Does LensCrafters have a faster glasses-making machine? I doubt it. They just remove the waiting time and transportation delays between you and the lab.

I wonder what other industries currently have such low value added time? It seems like there would be a competitive or entrepreneurial opportunity to compete based on speed and lean principles. Any ideas?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Consider oil changes – how long do you wait at a dealership? The standard today is between 45 minutes and 1 hour. It used to be longer. How long does it really take? 20 minutes. How long if you put two people on it? 10 minutes.

    Jiffylube, etc. figured this out. Of course, AND THIS IS KEY, if it’s not done right the first time, it’s not value added. My experience there isn’t statistically significant, but I would guess they have a 1-2 sigma quality level.

  2. I always wondered why it takes a half an hour to fill a prescription. That seems like it should take about five minutes.


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