I wound up conducting an experiment on smaller batches with my step-son and his friend this weekend. We all experienced first-hand its value in getting a job done more quickly with higher quality.
The two of them were “hanging out” at our house on Saturday, as “playing” is not very cool for 10-year olds. I always try to encourage some outside time, even if it is cold, snowy, and windy. Today I decided that they could help me stack wood. We have a wood stack at the front of the house, and every once in a while I take some of those split logs and move them closer to the door of the house so when it’s late at night, I don’t have to trek so far to get more wood.
They started off with my step-son taking armfuls of logs and putting them on the deck (about halfway to where they ultimately needed to go). His friend then picked up those logs and moved them to the final spot. This is classic assembly line large batch thinking – where you do the job in steps. When they thought that was taking too long, they moved to three steps. First they took the logs from the big stack out front and threw them as far as they could into a snow bank, then they moved them to the deck, and then to the final stack near the door.
I stopped them after a little while and suggested they try taking armloads from the stack out front and moving that armload all the way to the stack by the door. Essentially working in smaller batches, and completing the whole job. After they did that for a while, we looked at the process. With smaller batches:
- There was less picking up and putting down the logs, saving time
- The wood didn’t get covered in snow in the process, and would thus be better for burning
- The wood deck took less wear because all they did was walk on it and not stack wood on it
Not only was smaller batches less time intensive, it also resulted in higher quality / less defects. Even in stacking wood.