Engineered Standards Prove the Value of Wearables in Supply Chain Workforce Management
I have been privileged to work directly with some of the founders and leaders of the Supply Chain Execution (SCE) software industry.
As we are now taking the message of logistiVIEW out to the world, I owe a special debt of gratitude to the late Gene Gagnon, who founded Gagnon & Associates in 1960. He built an engineering consulting practice focused on optimizing labor using engineered standards. Gene combined sound engineering principles with the emerging capabilities of the PC revolution to build an innovative solution for distribution operations. I met Gene in 1998, when McHugh Software International (later, RedPrairie and now part of JDA) purchased Gagnon & Associates. I assumed the responsibility for Gagnon’s software development, and my eyes were soon opened to the brilliance of this offering. The value proposition was, and still is, the combination of labor management software and engineered standards, providing significant labor savings to the customers.
When some people hear “engineered standards,” they immediately assume that management is trying to turn up the heat on the workforce, squeezing more productivity with breakneck pace expectations. On the contrary, Gene believed in “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” Gagnon standards were built for average pace, average ability, normal amount of breaks and fatigue. Gagnon engineers didn’t find savings by setting unrealistic expectations. They found savings by eliminating wasted motion.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” This mantra seemed to float in the very air when Gene was around. Forget the image of the industrial engineer holding a stop watch. Customers who invested in the most exacting standards came to know the concept of counting TMUs. A Time Measurement Unit, or TMU, is equal to 0.036 seconds, or .00001 hours. Try catching that with a stop watch! Using TMUs as the smallest increment of time, engineers can build models of task-oriented business processes broken down to every discrete motion, without any need for decimal points. Clicking your mouse? That can be measured in TMUs. Reading this whole blog? Even more TMUs (and thank you!). Grabbing an RF gun from a holster, pointing it at a barcode while holding the trigger, and waiting for confirmation of the scan? You got it – TMUs.
Of course individuals will have some variance to the ways they pick up an object, and they will pause to scratch their nose every now and then, but the value of the standard model is in knowing which are the essential motions to execute the task in the most efficient way.
Once you know the whole process, you can look for ways to shave TMUs. One common method is to try to make some motions “internal” to the job. For example, can I un-holster my scanner while I’m walking toward the barcode? That’s all well and good, provided you have the opportunity, IE, an “external” task step which is large enough to hold the internal motion and the multi-tasking itself is safe for the employee. Wouldn’t it be better to eliminate the task step entirely?
At logistiVIEW, our combination of software, wearable technology, and efficiency-minded task flows do just that. We make industrial engineers lives easier, and your workforce more productive, by eliminating task steps, and TMUs, from your business processes.
Imagine you have an operation that requires the employee to obtain an RF terminal, read some instructions, then scan a barcode and enter a number, before returning the RF terminal to its holster. All of this is required while also performing the physical task itself (moving products, counting, assembling, etc.). Imagine all of those task steps add up to 100 TMUs per iteration of the task.
Now imagine the impact if the logistiVIEW solution could eliminate even half of those TMUs, a very conservative number.
50 TMUs, or 1.8 seconds, may not get you dreaming immediately of early retirement. However, that 1.8 seconds is now eliminated out of every iteration of the task. So if the average employee repeats that task 500 times in a shift, now we are at 900 seconds per employee per shift – 15 minutes!
Roll that up over, say, 30 employees performing that same task in the same shift: that’s 7.5 labor hours saved, which can be either reallocated to other tasks, or removed from the cost structure entirely.
Finding these savings isn’t difficult, if you know where to look. Well-written standards will pop the opportunities out like sore thumbs, as will trained observation of the task execution itself. We at logistiVIEW are proud to inherit the pioneering innovations of individuals like Gene Gagnon as we apply today’s technology in pursuit of workplace efficiency. We strive to make that “fair day’s work” easier for the employee, while making that “fair day’s pay” easier for the employer.