If cycle times vary widely, whether from cycle to cycle, or from person to person, it is an indication that there is something wrong with the process. On occasion, you will have one person who can’t seem to keep up. Make sure you observe the operator before you to jump to conclusions. In all likelihood, the person is slower because he is not following the process, not because he can’t do the work. In most cases, this is a training problem, meaning the operator doesn’t know the right way. That’s not the operator’s fault. It’s yours.
T&D electric manufactures high-voltage switches and other equipment for electric utilities. One line that is staffed by three workers assembles a particular type of switch. Currently the threes workers have fixed assignments; each worker fastens a specific set of components on the switch and passes it downstream on a rolling conveyor. The conveyor has capacity to allow a queue to build up in front of each worker. The bottleneck is the middle station with a rate of 11 switches per hour. The raw processing time is 15 minutes. To improve efficiency of the line, management is considering cross-training the workers and implementing some form of flexible labor system.