Lean Traffic

Lean Road? Lean traffic. Is it possible to use lean production methods for traffic? I think it is. After all even if we take couple of main principles from lean method and think how they work in traffic.

Lets start with the original seven muda are:(taken from wikipedia)

  • Transport (moving products that are not actually required to perform the processing)
  • Inventory (all components, work in progress and finished product not being processed)
  • Motion (people or equipment moving or walking more than is required to perform the processing)
  • Waiting (waiting for the next production step)
  • Overproduction (production ahead of demand)
  • Over Processing (resulting from poor tool or product design creating activity)
  • Defects (the effort involved in inspecting for and fixing defects)

1.Transport: This is what most of the traffic is, moving products or people that should not be moved in the first place:), I think movements like taking a DVD back to the rental store is pure waste as I have already watched it. Also picking it up is unnecessary as today it can be downloaded from the network services renting movies.

2.Inventory: Maybe having three cars, when you only use one? Or having a F40 ferrari for shopping. That is too much inventory. The less cars or ways of transports you have in inventory, the less cost there is. Every car needs a insurance and maintenance, so the cost builds up, it’s best to invest in one good car then to 5 poor cars.

3. Moving:  moving is fun, like motorcycling. Sometimes people that are very green and environmentally aware are saying that using the bus is way to safe the world, but actually most of the bus traffic is totally useless. Trips to some big store far away or another country.  Also a bus driving a given route empty without passengers is a waste that doesn’t happen with individual cars. Cars only move when they are used. A bus moves even without passengers.

To be more lean in some choices in your life could make it much more lean and also more profitable. When selecting where to live, the closer you are to the work place, the less unnecessary movement you have to do. Also the position of your summer place if you have one, could be a huge difference in traffic over 30 years.

Unnecessary walking cannot be that bad, as people need to stay healthy. But walking from store to the car with heavy bag can be a pain full experience.

4.Waiting: It seems to be real problem in traffic, You are waiting for traffic lights to change, waiting for the traffic to clear out. Waiting for a bus or train. To eliminate waiting traffic needs good roads that can handle problem situations and heavy traffic. They need to have automatic traffic lights that react to coming cars or more roundabouts, so when there is no other traffic, you don’t need to wait.

5.Overproduction: How traffic is over producted? Maybe by just moving too much stuff unnecessary.

6.Overprocessing: Overprocessing the traffic could be thinked as traffic lights where they are not needed. Or traffic cameras where there is no point to follow the speeds. Sometimes people still have GPS devices to warn about the traffic cameras, so to have those devices and still have cameras is just one big overprocessing and waste at the same time.

7.Defects: This could be car problems, quality issues with a given car, or handling traffic insidents. Problems with the road surface,  falling trees, the whole infrastructure can  cause major defects in traffic.

Waste: waste could be counted as waste products generated by traffic, exhaust gas, wastewater from car wash sites and so on, or other kinds of waste. Like Bus driving around empty. It’s total waste. Parked car wastes some parking space. When road salt corrodes the car and it looses value, that is waste.

When reading about Lean manufacturing you start to think about it every time you need to wait. And you think is it necessary that you have to wait in traffic light, and what causes that wait. How much better it would be if you didn’t have to wait. When filling up your car you think how much fuel it uses and start to think that it’s a waste and how much better it could be if it would consume less fuel.

Every thing that doesn’t add value to the customer has to be eliminated, and the customer in traffic is you. If something doesn’t add value to you, it could be better if it would be avoided. Many times it feels that the customer is actually the goverment and road users are actually just a milking cow that can be easily milked for easy money to fill up the budget deficit. And in democratic countries you are the one voting for these people.


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