Wasted Motion

by JR Griggs

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Motion Blur Frozen

A few months ago I took the family over to the new Lego Land that opened here in Florida. They had an interesting attraction where you are actually involved in a race with other people. They had these fire trucks and police trucks all lined up. You had to get in the truck and when they say “go”, drive it a small distance, jump out and spray water on a target to put out a fake fire.

Basically the trucks are on a track and can only go forward and back. You move the truck by pumping a seesaw handle up and down. Kind of like those carts on train tracks. Ideally you want 2 people on each side of the seesaw and working in rhythm to move the truck the fastest.

So as we are waiting in line I watch a family ahead of us to see if I can figure out the best strategy. As I am watching I notice that they are not moving very fast. The mom on the one side was jerking back on the handle and then up. Instead of just standing over the handle and moving it up and down. She was adding an additional motion and it was tiring her out faster and slowing down their truck. This wasted motion did nothing for their mission and she was extra tired at the end.

Of course in my master plan to beat all the families at Lego Land, I instructed my family on how not to do that and how we were going to win. Our plan worked out and although we won no award and it didn’t make it on Sports Center, we spanked those other families!

Remove Wasted Motion

Although you may not be worried about winning a fire truck race at Lego Land, I saw a lesson in this. This same wasted motion happens in many sports and in our businesses as well. Runners sometimes have a wasted motion in their stride which tires them faster and does nothing for their speed. Baseball players sometimes take a wasted movement before swinging the bat and it costs them speed and power.

In our business we sometimes will make tasks harder than they need to be. We take wasted steps that we could have streamlined to make our objective easier. I find myself guilty of this quite often.

When we remove this wasted motion we will find that we are able to progress much faster with less effort. When we remove wasted motion from our employees tasks we will see the same in their performance. It could be as simple as consolidating two forms into one. Or removing a middle man who is not doing much but passing on information.

Reduce Mistakes

Wasted motion can also cause mistakes. In sports these wasted motions can cause injury. In our business these wasted motions can cause mistakes. I once worked for a company where we had to place orders for material. These materials had different measurements. Sometimes it was by the piece, sometimes by square footage, sometimes linear footage.

For some reason the boss didn’t like the forms that the software we used created for the orders. So instead of the order going from the software to the finance department for ordering, he had a middleman take the form and rewrite  it onto a new form and then give that to the finance department. A wasted motion that I warned would lead to mistakes.

It wasn’t long before an order for “four pieces” was rewritten as “four feet”. Since they came in 4’ X 8’ sheets, the supply company sent one sheet. Needless to say there was not enough material at the job and to make matters worse it was a three week lead time to get more.

Take a look at your business systems, your various tasks that you or employees are doing and find those wasted motions. You’ll be surprised just how many of them there are and how much smoother things run without them.

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