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Is 100% productivity impossible? Factoring "dead time" into processes

Contributor: Craig Reid
Posted: 10/17/2012
Is 100% productivity impossible? Factoring "dead time" into processes
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In any process where human beings are involved you will rarely or never have 100% productivity - "dead time" is the gap between 100% productivity and actual productivity. So are you wasting your time trying to improve process steps that fall into "dead time"?

When I was at University I studied the classic Human Resources stuff - Maslow's hierarchy of needs, etc. One of the classic studies always sticks in my mind.

The experiment measured how workers in a factory worked most productively. It essentially discovered that those who worked rapidly could only keep up the rapid work for a certain amount of time before they "burned out" whilst those that were most productive worked at a steady pace throughout.

Better to be slow than to burn out?

What this shows is that the "fast" workers were probably operating near to 100% productivity, while the others were operating at, say 70%. When the fast workers burnt out they (for example) dropped to 30% productivity - so overall their productivity was less over the piece.

Where I am going with this is what I call the concept of "dead time". In any process where human beings are involved you will rarely or never have 100% productivity - it's just not our nature. "Dead time" is the gap between 100% productivity and actual productivity.

So why is this important? Well it needs to be considered when looking at processes. This is because it is a waste of effort, time, money, etc. to improve process steps that fall into "dead time".

For example is it worth installing super fast new lifts in a building to enable employees to get to their desks quicker? I'd say probably not as this period of time may fall into "dead time". Is it worth spending money on a super fast coffee machine in the kitchen? Probably not because people will still stand around and talk to whomever is in the kitchen at the time.

These are simplistic examples, but it is always important to realise that there will always be a percentage of "dead time" in every process - it isn't always worth optimising every stage of the process - making the judgment call of what fits into "dead time" is the tricky part.

First published on www.theprocessninja.com. Reprinted with permission.


Thank you, for your interest in Is 100% productivity impossible? Factoring "dead time" into processes.
Craig Reid
Contributor: Craig Reid