Going Through the Motions

Note:  This blog, the fourth installment  in a series on the “Seven Wastes of Muda” as they related to court document management, deals with the “M” in Tim Wood: Motion. 

“The Hurrier I Go, the Behinder I Get” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

In the manufacturing context, Motion refers to human bodily movement—turning, lifting, reaching, getting up and going somewhere, and so on.  In the court document management context, it means EXACTLY THE SAME THING.

So why is “Motion” a Waste?  My brother, an engineer for a vehicle manufacturing company, tells a story that well illustrates the point.  When line production changes from one type of vehicle to another, the setup of the assembly line stations must also be changed.  While of no direct value to the end customer, the change is necessary for the line is to produce more than one type of vehicle.  Thus, the more time it takes to make the change, called “setup”, the more “waste”; because the changeover produces nothing that a customer would pay for.

This company’s setup time was about four hours.  They’d heard that their Asian competitor claimed it was accomplishing essentially the same setup in less than half an hour.  The obvious conclusion was that the competitor was lying and was in fact illegally dumping  its vehicles on the American market at a loss.

To prove their case, the company decided to video and time their entire setup process, to demonstrate the physical impossibility of doing it any faster.  Here is the essence of this video demonstration:

1.  The last vehicle of the “old” run is processed.  Once done, the manager in charge of the experiment starts the clock.

2.  The first station operator says, “Where is my Work Order?”  The manager stops the clock while the Work Order is located.  The clock is then re-started.

3.  The operator says, “I need the tool set for the new pieces”.  Again, the manager stops the clock while the appropriate tools are located and brought to the station.  The clock is once again re-started.

And so on.

The demonstration took all afternoon.  However, the total recorded elapsed time was just 45 minutes.

The 45 minutes were the “value-adding” time.  The rest of the afternoon’s time and activities were pure waste.  

The funny thing— in a Dilbert sort of way— was that, according to my brother, initially some of the managers didn’t get it.   Stopping the clock seemed to them perfectly reasonable; and using the recorded time (and ignoring the unrecorded time) made perfect sense. 

Imagine doing the same type of thing with a court docket.   Suppose we evaluated the time and effort, but as soon as the clerk has to reach for the next file and hand it to the judge, we stop the clock.  Every time the clerk or judge has to search through a stack of documents or files, we stop the clock.  Every time someone has to get a document or file, we stop the clock.  Doing this, we can easily cram 45 minutes of value-added court processing into an entire morning.

The Toyota Manufacturing System[i] mandates aggressively identifying ALL motion, and just as aggressively designing workflow using available technology not just to streamline, but to eliminate as much motion as possible.  One of the most powerful— and often overlooked in initial planning—potential benefits for courts of ECM with configurable workflow is to eliminate vast amounts of motion.

Give it a try: Watch any process in your court, and take note anytime anyone moves to get a document or file, moves a document or file, or moves to be in position to do something with a document or file.  Then ask yourself :

1) Why did the person move; and

2) How many times does the person do that every day?

My guess is that after doing this drill a few times, you’ll start to understand what makes Motion one of Taiichi Ohno’s wastes.


[i] See previous posts

One response to “Going Through the Motions

  1. Pingback: Inside the Department of Redundancy Department: The Waste of Over Processing | Order in the Court

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