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Excess Motion: An active drain on performance


Have you ever watched an elite athlete perform? I don’t mean just watch the score; I mean actually watching their performance. Their movement patterns are astoundingly efficient:

  • A cycling pro puts all his or her power into strong, smooth, consistent pedal strokes, with no energy wasted on bouncing or side-to-side motion.
  • The tennis player’s stroke is quick, yet so fluid it appears effortless.
  • A golfer follows a precise, elegant sequence to deliver a solid, powerful swing.

From figure skaters to basketball players, gymnasts to quarterbacks, top athletes train hard to channel all their energy into useful movement, not waste it on inefficient motion. As sports technique expert and biomechanics specialist Dr. Michael Yessis explains it, “the less energy expended during execution of a sport skill, the more efficient is the movement.”

I’ll be the first to admit that a production line or distribution process will never be as beautiful to watch as a gifted athlete’s moves, but we can take a lesson from their skills and training: excess and unnecessary motion is detrimental to performance. But what you can – and should – recognize is that you can’t increase capacity if you ignore efficiency.

Think about it: Any time your workers are forced to spend time searching, retrieving, bending, and lifting in order to fulfill their job functions, they are not operating at peak performance nor adhering to good ergonomic practices. If tools are disorganized or must be located, repaired, or assembled before use, your operation is not using its resources efficiently. When equipment must be transported to and from distant storage areas, you actually have a built-in a requirement for unnecessary movement.

Excess motion increases the risk of worker injury, increases wear and tear on tools and equipment, increases the potential for product loss or damage, and increases congestion in work areas, all while adding absolutely no value to your product or process. That means you’re literally going out of your way to decrease productivity potential!

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In virtually every sport, the factors that influence athletic mobility are observed, measured, tracked, modeled, studied, tested, analyzed, compared and modified, with the findings used to develop techniques that build speed and endurance, eliminate friction, reduce effort, improve coordination and decrease the risk of injury. Aren’t your operational goals the same? Although the resources involved in sports and industry are different, the same principals of movement efficiency apply.

Why not take a step back and take a hard look at your processes? Are heavy items stored on hard-to-reach shelves or out-of-of-the-way locations? Are necessary tools and components missing in action at the time and place they’re needed? Do workers need to take the long way around just to get the job done?

Unlike passive wastes that may be difficult to identify and measure, wasteful motion actively depletes energy and efficiency, making it easier to spot and correct. Every step you can eliminate, every distance you can shorten and every operation you can streamline brings you that much closer to achieving peak performance.

Why go out of your way to decrease productivity? UNEX helps you optimize your layout, slotting, storage, and picking operations in ways that coordinate movement patterns with process goals. Call your Pickologist to discover winning solutions that eliminate excess movement and boost capacity to build top performance.

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Check out week eight here: Defects: The urgency of finding fault