If you are like many of my readers, your commute to
work is a matter of steps from the house to the barn
and that's one of the many advantages of owning your
No traffic snarls of wasted time or elevated blood
pressure before your work day begins
My commute to the office is about seven minutes long;
a straight shot from driveway to office building. There
is a lot to be said for the simplicity of life in a small
However, when I'm listening to morning drive time
radio from Buffalo and Toronto stations, I hear
frequent traffic reports about bottlenecks in
rush hour traffic flow. If you live in or near a big city,
you know all about beating traffic problems - it's a way
Those darn bottlenecks - the spots where
is happening, accidents have occurred or just too
many drivers are competing for scarce real estate for
their four tires. Some engineering folks refer to these
as chokepoints - critical spots along a route
where free flow is strangled to a trickle of movement.
My friend Jerry recently told me a story about his
experience with a bottleneck in production at a stone
quarry. A number of years ago his boss at the quarry
knew that production (making big stones into little
stones) was not as high as it could be. The boss
wasn't quite sure where the slow spot was in
production, so he sent Jerry out to videotape the
process in action from high up at the top of the quarry
hole. It was a stealth mission so as to not disrupt the
employees' normal workflow habits.
Jerry's videotape revealed in just a few minutes of
filming that the rock crusher in the quarry was
operating perfectly; the problem discovered was that
the crusher sat idle while waiting for the next truck to
carry the crushed rock away. The lack of sufficient
truck capacity had created a bottleneck in the
Daily production was limited to the time it took for each
truck to make a round trip dumping stone. Talk about
being dumb as a rock! By just adding another truck to
the crushing operation, production doubled.
Well, duh, why didn't they figure that out sooner? The
workers in the pit knew they only had one
truck to use, just couldn't produce any faster. The
people in the office knew that
production was consistent so that meant that's as
good as we can do.
The boss's intuition told him that there was
something missing and he took the initiative to study
the process. Perhaps he knew the forest view
is always obstructed by the trees. . . or the rock pile.
So have a peek at your business this week. Where
are your bottlenecks? You know you have
- Will more wheelbarrows speed the mucking
- Will a better system for feeding with a cart or more
convenient locations for feed make for better flow?
- Do you need one central paperwork collection box
in the barn for reports, payments, messages?
- Would a few strategically placed wall clocks in the
barn, viewing lounge and outdoor and indoor arenas
help you, employees and clients be more time
- Would an investment in extra lead lines reduce
steps through the day in horse handling?
- Is the daily or weekly schedule of lessons,
training, horse shows, visitors and deliveries posted
so all can know what's happening?
You get the idea.
It's usually simple to fix bottlenecks in work
flow. The difficulty lies in identifying them.
Keep your eyes open for the chokepoints, get the tow
truck in there and remove or repair the obstructions.
It's all about flow.