by Ben Savage
- It’s not a third grade art project.
- It’s not the result of an engineer flashing back to the 60s (well I’m mostly sure of this.)
- It’s not the result of an engineer with too much free time (we’ve worked to curb that after they decided magic was the way to fix software bugs.)
It turns out that when we were making some early sample bins for a new project, we ran out of orange material and had to inject a second shot of material that was blue. This created an improvised mold flow example. The material is injected in the front lip, but you can see it traveled all the way to the far back corner.
It’s a good example of how the flow of material is frequently not what you would expect. I’ve often found this the case with people and workflows, too.
Why workflow matters
I’m always surprised at the number of times I walk into a facility and a critical item is only at one location – one that may be convenient for the person managing it, but no one else. If you centrally locate all of your supplies that makes them easy to manage, but everyone who needs them has to walk a long way. They’ll probably encounter a few diversions along the way, so what might take 5 minutes if the items were in close proximity often takes 30 minutes.
When I look at the solutions my team and I develop at Apex, part of the design process is understanding what flow we’re trying to enable or, in some cases, disable. If I can refer back to my previous post about Project Eagle, the first step in designing our carryout order pickup solution was thinking through the potential workflow at a fast-casual restaurant. This led us to build the device so that it could be loaded from both sides.
In a fast-casual environment, most places have a counter between the customer and the store associates. If you make it load only from the front, you then drive a store associate to fight across the customers in line, which will create frustration as well as backups. We wanted to enable a fast pick up for the customer with minimal change to the store associate’s workflow.
When flow needs a retool
In other cases there are specific flows we want to eliminate. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to help companies and managers be more efficient at managing product in remote locations. The way most organizations handle this is to have team members go out and count things, then call in an order or return to the central location and retrieve the material that they’ll stock on another trip.
At Apex, all of our solutions solve this “trip to count stuff” problem. If you use them correctly they will tell you what you need to take, so you’ll make one trip to the location with only the material you need to deliver. Why be wasteful when you can work smarter?
What workflows could we help you with to help work smarter?