AS – How Variation Undermines Performance – and What You Can Do About It

September 25, 2018 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am


By William A. Levinson

If your organization is not achieving the results it wants – whether in manufacturing, services or project management – variation is probably a major reason. Variation can not only lead to physical nonconformity (such as in manufacturing), but also lengthen cycle times and increase inventory. This kind of variation (mura, unevenness) is why customers often have to wait for services despite excess capacity (at least on paper), and why traffic jams appear out of nowhere – and for no apparent reason. But when you learn to recognize and overcome variation, the results can be game-changing for your organization.
Find out from productivity expert William Levinson how to recognize and overcome any previously hidden variation that undermines performance in a range of business activities – from manufacturing to service operations and project management. Discover, for example, why bubbles of inventory accumulate in your factory, why lines of unhappy customers back up at service desks that appear to have excess capacity, and why projects that supposedly have slack time often finish late.
“Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction, which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen war.”
– General Carl von Clausewitz’s On War (J.J. Graham translation)
Learn how this principle carries over into civilian occupations as waste (muda), strain (muri), and unevenness in production and/or demand (mura). The latter, in the form of variation, is the form of friction that affects a wide range of activities – such as production management, project management, services, and even traffic.
Make no mistake: most forms of friction are asymptomatic – they do nothing overt to announce their presence. Because of it (as Clausewitz added), organizations often fall short of what seem to be easily achievable goals. Learn why some of the trusted production control systems can at best contain the effects of variation – but not remove them. Find out how to address unavoidable variation in service activities through reassignment of cross-trained workers, and how reallocation of resources can take care of variation issues in project management.
Also learn about:
Deming’s Red Bead experiment, which shows that a production operation generates a random number of defective parts. Don’t blame the workers, improve the process.
A simulation that uses gun targets (to represent specification limits) and histograms, which demonstrates the effect of variation on product dimensions. You can visualize a Six Sigma process in this manner.
Goldratt’s and Cox’s matchsticks-and-dice exercise, which shows how variation affects production control. Inventory accumulates because favorable variation cannot offset unfavorable variation.
The drum-buffer-rope (DBR) production control system contains the effects of the variation by confining them to the capacity-constraining resource (CCR), but does not remove the variation.
Corrective actions include single-unit flow, rapid changeover, and elimination of batch-and-queue operations.
Variation in project activity times, which can create a new critical path where none existed on paper.
Variation in customer arrival rates at a service with fixed capacity, which will result in people waiting while the service operates well under capacity, again because favorable variation (no customers waiting) cannot offset unfavorable variation (too many customers arrive at the same time). Matters become even worse when the arrival rate and the service rate both include variation.
This is also why traffic often backs up when a highway is operating at near capacity, and also at traffic lights. Traffic control devices that sense the presence or absence of vehicles (demand) counteract the latter effect as much as possible.
Countermeasures include the ability to reassign extra workers in response to variation in the customer arrival rate. The same concept carries over into industry where cross-trained workers can be moved to where they are needed to balance workloads
After attending this information-packed webinar, you’ll be able to recognize previously hidden variation that undermines performance in your manufacturing, service or project activities. Plus, you’ll be armed with off-the-shelf techniques for suppressing the effects of variation, and even removing the variation.

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