Last weekend S A Partners supported the Chernobyl Children’s foundations annual cliff walk from Ballycotton to Ballinrostig along the beautiful South Coast of Ireland. It’s a spectacular day and spectacular walk with over 400 walkers turning out on the day.
As we walked along the cliffs the path narrows as it passes through thick and prickly undergrowth. At certain points a stone wall or obstacle needs to be overcome. This created obvious bottle neck and a queue built up in front of the ‘constraint’ as walkers in various degrees of fitness attempted to overcome the obstacle. Watching the proceedings I was reminded of Little’s Law a fundamental rule within the application of lean thinking within a system.
It states: Throughput time = Units in process x Cycletime.
The more inventories you have in front of a process the longer it will take for individual unit to pass through the process. Not rocket science but a real issue in many businesses.
As I walked further along the path I considered ways in which the build up of ‘inventory’ in front of the constraint could have been reduced. A person helping people to get over the wall would have reduced the cycle time of the process. Or an alternative route over the wall maybe even an easier one so that the flow of work to the constraint could be segregated into faster fitter and slower less fitter work streams.
All this was bubbling through my head and then we came to Ballycroneen Beach. This is a beautiful sand and stone beach very picturesque. But some yahoo had backed up a trailer on to the beach and dumped the contents of what looked like a child’s bedroom along with some electrical equipment on to the beach! I along with the majority of walkers were completely stunned by the mess it created.
So here is the rub. I had just spent the last hour mulling how processes can make stuff quicker. Now here we are looking a pile of stuff which took a process a couple of hour to make, brought ‘value’ to its customer for maybe six months to a year and is now dumped into the environment and will probably sit around for maybe thousands of years? All that time effort, design, energy, standard achievement, meetings and transport associated with these products to finally sit and rot over thousands of years on a beautiful beach.
I read somewhere that 95% of all the plastic EVER MADE is still with us today.
And here we are staring at this heap of human effort and resource corroding slowly away on a beautiful beach in East Cork. What are we to do? What are we to do?