Speed vs. Efficiency: Five guys are standing around a machine…


Okay, go with me.

Five guys are standing around a machine. One sales person. One production guy. One numbers guy. One engineer. And then, the Bossman.

“So how are we going to meet this customer’s deadline, guys?” asked the Bossman. The other four guys looked dumbfounded.

“I don’t know, but we sure can work harder I guess,” said the production guy.

The Bossman responded, “Nope, we have to be lazy.”

“What?! Lazy?” thought the engineer. “How in the world can we accomplish that task by being lazy?”

It was in that moment that I – the engineer – suddenly had the light bulb flash on. To accomplish more, the Bossman wanted us to work smarter, not harder. As he went on to say, to “KISS me and keep it simple stupid!” That’s the simple notion that it is OK to take the path of least resistance when solving a problem. There is no reason to come up with a complex solution when the simpler one will yield the same results in the same amount of time. Why over-complicate things?

After all, it’s a matter of speed vs. efficiency.

This concept can often get lost in both production and service environments when dollars count and volume matters. Quicker production or faster service suggests greater yield of goods and services, leading to higher revenue. However, there is nothing wrong with speed, if other production aspects are not adversely impacted, such as product quality, materials and resources, and most importantly — safety.  

A great comparison would be two production assembly lines. Production Line A hums along effortlessly, churning out the finished product day after day, week after week with zero downtime and zero operator injury. On average, it takes 20% more time to produce each finished product than its counterpart. In contrast, Production Line B experiences downtime every three days for a couple hours each instance, along with using 50% more energy to run, and finally, on average causing 1-2 operator injuries per month from the increased need for maintenance and repair.

Although Production Line B operates 20% faster than Production Line A, it introduces potential for more problems because of that increased speed. The machines are stressed more, causing maintenance issues and failures, and as a result also use 50% more energy to run. This could be the exact same for a person performing a service. Would you agree that while Production Line A may not be as speedy, it certainly is more efficient? (I’m sure you can think of a few former co-workers in the same manner, too.)

Speed vs. efficiency affects the bottom line. Period.

Are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Can the process be simplified? Are you operating equipment that needs to be upgraded for higher safety and greater efficiency? Can the task you are doing be delegated so you are running efficiently in your strength zone?  Or maybe – just maybe – there is a leech called an “efficiency sucker” lurking just around the cubicle corner. 

Whatever it may be, grow more efficient (and profitable) by:

  • Identifying your “efficiency sucker.” See it, don’t be afraid to call it out, and fix it.

  • KISS the problem — keep it simple, stupid! Overthinking costs you time and money.

  • Oil the machine just right. Hand-select your team so that they are running in strengths and working at prime capacity. Remove that leaky seal.

  • If it’s broke, fix it. If it ain’t broke, still fix it. Keep your eyes on where you can “tighten up” your service time or production outputs. Constant quality control enhances your business productivity and bottom line.

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