The Queen Sets the Takt Time?


Clients of mine always end up saying something like “Lean really gets into your head… it's hard to turn off” – or at least one on every project ends up saying that. That's a good thing… a way of thinking, not just a set of tools.

Lean is in my head, and it's hard to turn off even on a holiday weekend in London. I saw a few instances that made me think of “flow” during our stops along the way.

The “London Eye” is an attraction that is basically a giant Ferris wheel, but with enclosed pods (as shown in a photo I took). It's quite an engineering marvel (to me, anyway) and a wonderful view of London in the 30 minute journey. The continuous flow aspect of the London Eye is that it never stops. It just rotates very slowly and they load/unload passengers through the door during a window that's like a moving assembly line with a 45-second cycle time. It's better than the herky-jerky load/unload process of a Ferris wheel at your county fair.

Now, it actually DOES stop (for safety reasons) when there is a disabled passenger who needs more time or would be unsteady on the slowly moving pod. Prioritizing safety over all — good call. Even when the Eye *did* stop, it was very, very smooth. You can tell that was designed in, rather than being a safety afterthought.

We also visited the fascinating Tower of London (which is really a fortress and set of palaces, more than a single tower). One of the highlights is getting to see the Crown Jewels (or least what are purported to be the real thing… one of my colleagues here thinks they are a fake set to avoid theft). No photos, since they're not allowed during your tour.

One problem a museum or attraction might have is moving people along to keep the queue going. The Crown Jewels building is “Disney-like” in it's queuing… one line outside, then lots of queues in different rooms inside, with videos and things showing along the way. As our friend Peter Abilla writes about, this is good queuing practice to help you not focus on the waiting time.

People tend to want to stop and linger and stare at the jewels, they are pretty breathtaking. They used to have “a lady standing there who would poke you if you stood too long… keep it moving” according to a local colleague. Now, they have enforced flow with a moving walkway like you would find at an airport!

In the part of the building with the most valuable jewels, the pace of viewing is dictated by the Queen (in a way) via the pace of the moving walkway. No lingering… just continuous flow of visitors.  Interesting. There are some treasures you can stand and stare at all you want.

I'm not sure if that's “customer focused” other than keeping the line moving and the queue down to a reasonable size.

I bet the walkway runs at a single speed at all times. It would be interesting to see if they could adjust the rate of the walkway to correspond with “takt time?” If there are slow times (and I'm not sure there are), the walkway could run slower and they could speed it up slightly when busy. I didn't see a “suggestion box” so I'll just have to pose that question here.

See how Lean can get stuck in your head? I don't think I'm the only Lean obsessive. To my own credit, I didn't think about Lean when I was on a beach for almost a week back in May.

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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.


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