Cirque du Soleil, the French circus known for its acrobatics, is currently on the road with its "Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour" and made a stop just a few miles from the Minitab World Headquarters.
My wife and I decided to go to the 8:00 show, but little did I know the performance would be preceded by a lesson in takt time...
Here is a timeline of events:
7:20 - A friend arrives to find long lines at each of the four arena entrances and doors closed.
7:30 - Doors are opened to allow ticket holders to enter after a weapons search (I still have not figured out why the potential assassination of a French acrobat felt like such a concern) and ticket scanning.
7:40 - My wife and arrive to find really long lines (it's 40 degrees F, windy, and raining lightly).
8:05 - We are able to enter the arena.
8:20 - The performance, delayed because so many fans had been unable to enter, begins.
Takt time is defined simply as the available time to work (minutes, hours, etc.) divided by the work demand (units, people, etc.). In continuous processes, we often know both variables and are calculating the takt time from them. But in non-continuous environments, such as a one-time show at an arena, we may work backwards from the takt time to instead calculate the necessary available time to work. So then our formula could be written as:
Necessary time = Takt Time * Demand
Takt time can be figured out ahead of time using a small sample run through the same process. So in this case, the organizers could have set up security at just a single entrance and run about 20 people through to get a quick and fairly accurate estimate of takt time (If 20 people all go through in 30 seconds, you have a takt time estimate of 1.5 seconds/person).
Let's assume that each of the four entrances had roughly equal numbers of people coming through (unlike parts, people can make Lean easier by willingly choosing the option with the least wait and balance things for you) and there were 8,000 people attending, so 2,000 enter through each door. The takt time calculated ahead of time was about 1.5 seconds per person, so then the necessary time could have been calculated as:
Necessary time = 1.5 seconds/person * 2000 people = 3000 seconds or 50 minutes
Had the organizers done this ahead of time, they would have realized they would need 50 minutes to get everyone through the doors. Rather than wait to open the doors at 7:30, opening them at 7:10 would have caused much less annoyance and frustration for their 8,000 customers.
So if you have a process that must operate in batches or as one-time runs, consider figuring out your takt time using a small test run up front, and then calculating the necessary time to completion. Add a small buffer and your customer's experience will be a Thriller instead of just plain Bad...