Posted by: Knightbird | February 8, 2015

Alaska Airlines Lean Management Improvements

Alaska Airlines gave a presentation at a Results Washington conference in 2012 about what Lean Management has meant for their organization. Alaska Airline’s implementation of Lean started with their initial visits to Boeing and Virginia Mason Medical Center in 2004. Since then, Alaska Airlines has generated some amazing improvements. I have seen many of them as I fly throughout their system. The link on the headline for this post is contained in the title.

I began introduction of Lean Thinking at Chugachmiut in 2004 as well. Like Alaska Airlines, we had great success. But if you don’t know what you are looking for in terms of improvement, you can miss it. What I saw develop over many years flying Alaska was a change both in attitude and results. You can see the results of workplace organization on the Alaska Airlines tarmac. They have painted lines where equipment is best positioned for productivity. That’s Visual Management, and it works. They have standard work. When flight attendants are welcoming passengers, they have a standardized location for each of them. I noticed that change some time ago. The purpose is to assist with on time departures. They have gotten better at on time departures. And flight attendants seem to have a standard greeting and departure protocol. However, with all the time I spend on Alaska, I am convinced that they love their jobs and when they say something to me, they mean it.

The explanation Alaska gives on the difference in random boarding versus back of the plane boarding first in their PowerPoint is one of the best rationales I have seen. You can give this kind of explanation if you have the data. Takt Time represents the number of passengers that need to be boarded. Cycle time is the time it takes each passenger to board once they start the process. Lean Time is the amount of time it takes to board all passengers. Alaska Airlines knows their Lean and can explain it.

Page 12 of the PowerPoint demonstrates workplace organization and it’s a fine demonstration. An organized work space saves you time. Page 16 examines a Root Cause for excess Pilot Reserve using a fishbone diagram. With a .5% increase in pilot productivity, Alaska’s profit improves substantially by reduction of costs and recapture of value.

The presenter goes through an outstanding explanation of the waste encountered in the aviation industry. When you understand and are willing to address elimination of waste, you gain greater productivity. And greater productivity comes from many places, not just increasing revenue.

I want to make one more point about the relationship between Government Services and private sector business. If government does their job better, private business can do their jobs more efficiently. All passengers boarding an airplane have to go through security. Alaska examined the security processes, and increased throughput at peak times from 1200 to 1600 passengers. That’s an improvement of 33 1/3%. Outstanding. That means planes can board quicker and depart one time. Utilization goes up. If government does their job poorly, then businesses suffer, and we pay more for the waste caused by government. But guess what? If Alaska Airlines can work with government and gain productivity improvements, they can deliver greater value to all of those government employees who travel on Alaska Airlines. We all benefit. Think about that.

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