Lean Manufacturing

Are Holidays Batch Processing?

By Jon Miller Updated on May 19th, 2017

Getting back into the swing of things after most of last week away on holiday, a thought popped into my head:

“Are holidays batch processing?”

Something about how we spend time at work and how we take time off reminds me of non-lean operations. We work 70 hour weeks for months at a time. Then we take most of a week to do no work. We recover our energies and go back at it again. Isn’t this like running machines until they break down because we are too busy to do preventive maintenance? Or is it like building up inventory so we can take it easy as we wait for the downstream process to catch up? Idling a production line as a result of overproduction?
We take time off in batches partly because economic order quantities. The distance and therefore time and cost to take a holiday requires a certain length of stay in most cases.

It wouldn’t make sense to take a day to travel and another day to travel back if you weren’t spending at least 2 days in between to relax. There is set up time to pack, travel, unpack, pack and travel back (with some holiday activity in between the unpack, pack). Would there be a benefit to smaller lot size vacations of more frequent, small trips?

Many people I know don’t even take time for a lunch break during the day and spend some part of their weekends working at home or on business travel. Unclaimed vacation time is much higher in the United States than in Europe for example. Is this a good way of working? This depends on several things:

1) How efficiently do we work while we are “at work” for extended periods of time?

2) What are the costs of lost productivity and quality linked to overwork?

3) What are costs associated with excess capacity or lack of capacity in hotels, aircraft, etc. due to imbalances in demand of vacationing (demand peaks and valleys)?

Or perhaps as with lean, so with vacations: practice, not theory.

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