Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Toilet Paper Roll--Does It Change Itself? (A Theory of Constraints Lesson)

The answer is no, not yet, at least that I have seen. So we need a process ...

I have a process for making sure that we are never without toilet paper in any bathroom. Yes, it is a process. Toilet paper rolls do not just magically appear under the sink.

I use a 2 bin system.

Whenever the last roll is taken from the cabinet underneath the sink, leaving just the roll on the holder – that is the signal to retrieve 2 more rolls from storage and put them in the cabinet.

And, here’s the really complicated part. When you remove the last rolls from storage, this is the indication to put “toilet paper” on the shopping list. And the shopping list, of course, is in its standard location with pen for easy, quick additions. (So don’t move it or take the pen.)

Now this process is simple and elegant BUT despite that, it still does not work 100% of the time.

So what does a Theory of Constraints expert do when a process is not working? We collect the reasons why. We then use the biggest occurrence of why’s to improve the process.

The most frequently occurring why I’ve collected so far is “I’m too busy to go replenish toilet paper at the time I pull the last from under the sink.”

So to continue down the process improvement path we have to figure out how to deal with this biggest disruption to our toilet paper supply. 

What are your ideas?

This is an example of a Theory of Constraints POOGI process, a Process of On-Going Improvement. And it is a critical part of any system. We use it in the Velocity Scheduling System (our scheduling program for custom job shops).

How can you apply this to one of YOUR processes?

Share your comments, feedback and suggestions by leaving a comment on this post.  Really -- I want to hear from you!

Wishing you success,
Dr Lisa
President, Science of Business

P.S. FOR CUSTOM JOB SHOPS ONLY: The next Velocity Scheduling System Coaching Program for custom job shop scheduling and machine shop scheduling starts on Monday June 6.

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2011 Copyright, Science of Business.  All rights reserved.


Mike McRitchie said...

I think you need to add a buffer/reserve to the system - this is a place you put one roll of TP that is not in the normal supply chain (like a nondescript basket on top of the toilet's water closet). Then if the normal two roll supply is exhausted you still have one you can grab - now maybe having a note on top of that TP that says "Yes you really do need to replace this and the two other rolls now! P.S. no excuses :) - a little guilt never hurt.

CalHalliburton said...

Dear Dr. Lisa,

A great system example. Simple, elegant, and effective, but is it necessary?

Given that toilet paper has a cost to the consumer that doesn't begin to account for the total economic and environmental cost, shouldn't we ask a few more why questions? For example: why are you using so much toilet paper? Why are you using toilet paper at all? Why not apply the maxim; the most reliable system is the one that doesn't exist yet yields the final result? What is the purpose/final result of the toilet paper?

If the purpose or final result is to clean one's private parts following urination and/or defecation, are there other systems that are more thorough, more hygienic, and less expensive and time consuming?

It may be interesting to see what other systems people currently employ or invent for future use.

vivek said...

I think a TOC expert shall have to start by establishing a linkage between the lack of Toilet paper and throughput of the Hotel (assuming we are talking about a Hotel here). There is really no reason why he should concern himself with this process otherwise. Assuming that cleanliness and hygiene is one of the major parameters on which customers rate the hotel and the hotel is losing business due to the lack of the above- or rather, assuming that improving cleanliness and hygiene will unavoidably result in better occupancy and therefore, increased throughput, we can go ahead with the analysis.

If the above suumptions are true, cleanliness then becomes one of the -sub-branches in the Current Reality Tree that we draw. Breaking cleanliness branch further down, we can come to further sub-branches related to room cleanliness, foyer cleanliness, bathrooms cleanliness etc. Assuming that room and foyer etc do not really have a prominent UDE associated with them and lack of proper toilet papers is seen as a prominent UDE for the bathroom and to the extent that it is identified as one of a few root causes at the bottom of the Current Reality Tree, we can identify that as a constraint and move ahead. Lack of availability of the toilet paper is a constraint and once this is understood, measures have to be undertaken to ensure that the toilet paper is replenished immediately even if it leads to loss in productivity of the cleaner(loss of time by going to the store-room and getting the paper rolls).Lack of knowledge of the real constraint leads to people running after metrics like productivity (for example: no. of rooms cleaned in a day per cleaner). I will stick my neck out and say that the lack of knowledge about the real constraint (toilet paper in this case) is the real constraint of the organization to start with. The initial conflict in the minds of the managers an the cleaners results from the following cloud, which may go something like this:

A-Improve hotel profit (or something similar to this- this goal is hazy before we apply TOC- so there is no mention of THROUGHPUT/MONEY here)
B-Improve availability of toilet paper
D- Replenish toilet paper immediately
C-Improve productivity
D'-Replenish all papers at the end (batching the activity- which may lead to problems specially if the guest enters the room before one gets a chance to replenish the toilet papers)

TOC directly attackes the A-C linkage by questioning the assumption that inacreasing productivity improves the goal of the organization. Once this conflict is resolved, measures can be undertaken to ensure that the toilet papers are always available (like the "constraint buffer" of toilet papers in the trolley that the cleaner pushes into the room, from where he can replenish)


Dr Lisa Lang said...

This a process for home. Hotels ususally don't have this issue because rooms are serviced and replenished everyday.

Tal said...

You have a fault in the design, men do not change toilet paper, it is too complicated for us.
If you have a man in the equation, any process involving toilet paper change is going to fail :)

Dr Lisa Lang said...

Tal, that is what I suspected!

Normaler said...

It doesn’t work because it is based on the law of Least Effort:
Least effort is expended when actions are motivated by love and that’s a very difficult thing to motivate if some one is speaking of toilet paper.

Imagine different events that will precede a total system failure:

just finish the roll on the holder, I get one off the cabinet. But if I got the last roll of the shelf, I’m upset, because I have to go to the storage to get 2 rolls and put them on the cabinet. Probably I would think “At least I left a new roll on the holder”, let the next user to worry.

just finished roll on the holder, and there is no roll on the cabinet .- I already served myself, then the next one, will have to do what has to be done; because the last user should have replenish the cabinet and didn’t do it, if I do it I would have to take 3 rolls of the storage to level the system.

just finish the roll on the holder, and there is no roll on the cabinet, I’m upset, but ok I’ll go to the storage to get 2 rolls and put them on the cabinet. They are the last 2 rolls, I have to put “toilet paper” in the shopping list, that I'm not going to do.

Very soon a crisis will occur. There are no more rolls on the cabinet, nor in the storage. The next user will have a hard time, and no one put “toilet paper” in the shopping list .

The aproach must be different, perhaps punishment or reward.
A)Punishment if you don’t complete the process. (Wont work)
A “user registration” is needed, before using the bathroom. (Procedure modification)
If he is the last user he is responsible for doing what has to be done, if he do not do it he’ll get a penalty.
ha ha .- I won’t register myself and so, if I where the last user the bill will go to the next.

B)Reward if you complete the process. (Probably would have a chance to work)
A “user registration” is needed, before using the bathroom. (Procedure modification)
If he is the last user he is responsible for doing what has to be done, if he do it he’ll get a reward for helping to complete the cycle.
I’ll be glad to register to get the chance to win. More if every other user has to contribute to the reward.

Andy from Workshopshed said...

The double buffer technique models quite a lot of situations. The same could apply to a production line or shop stocks. I'd suggest Vivek's solution is overly complex, for the hotel you could use bookings as a driver for orders of rolls.

To avoid the problem you would need to decouple the ordering of rolls with the use of rolls. You could have a regular order and then monitor if your stock was increasing or decreasing and adjust this order as necessary. The issues to factor in would be the capacity of your secondary storage (and available finances). Also dealing with any swings in demand such an unwell householder or a guest staying might provide an input into your regular order calculation.

LeanDave said...

Perhaps you could put "check TP stock level" On a weekly pitch walk. Every saturday morning (before you go shopping) take the shopping list around the house and note stock levels below the minimum (laundry soap, TP, dishwasher detergent...).

For the TP, you could combine the storage supply and the cabinet supply (assuming there is room to keep a 1 week supply in the cabinet) and reduce your overall TP footprint in the house :)

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