We’ve probably all heard the term switching costs in reference to changing your bank, utility supplier or phone service provider. It’s been in the news lately with the new agreement on changing banks. This cost applies in your processes as well. When we have to stop work on one job & switch to another, because we don’t have all the parts or information there is a cost involved.
This is a form of waste that falls within the motion category. It may not be physical motion, although quite often it is, it may be merely the motion of the wheels spinning in our heads changing gears from one task to another.
When it is physical motion, moving from one job to a different one, or moving the job in front of us back into storage to bring out the one we can work on the waste is obvious. People moving around, transporting (waste) bits from one area to another or simply moving the people from one product or work cell to another is all waste. There is no value being created as we move from job to job. This is obvious to most people.
It is much less obvious when we have to change from one information based task to another. Closing one spreadsheet to open another, from a client file, to another client file, from the invoice we have almost completed to another one because we do not have all the info necessary to complete the first one are all examples of motion waste that can be difficult to identify. It may only take a few seconds to physically click on the other file or extract the folder from the pile on your desk, but it also takes time to get your brain focused on the next task.
There are of course times when it is necessary, but in our ever present search for optimal, for reduction in waste, we should be mindful of the cost of time lost to “get in gear” for the new task. I’ve heard it quoted that it can take up to 8 minutes to change the thought process from one task to another.
One of the big problems here is that we don’t always have all the information or resources needed to finish the task. Sometimes we do have everything we need & get distracted or worse, are told to stop working on this, and start working on that. Think about how you can avoid this to ensure you spend more time working & less time switching. Or are you the one making people switch tasks, creating waste unnecessarily?