Philie Group Blog

Three gears that don't mesh
Align Your Capacity to Minimize Constraints
By Mike Philie

In the quest for machine productivity and efficiency, what can get lost is how well you are doing at completing projects. After all, we can’t invoice the project until it is shipped or in the mail. We see company KPIs with all types of metrics on speeds and feeds and productive hours. One more thing that should be reviewed is how many jobs were shipped today, and what was the value of that work. Isn’t that an important indicator of productivity? Ironically perhaps, we tend to measure sales activity by how many jobs and the value of those jobs were sold that day and we measure operations by how fast they operate a device.

Make an impact on your business

What would the impact be if you increased the aperture of your dashboard and measured the velocity of the projects moving through your operations as a workflow goal?

Map your way to minimizing bottlenecks

In recent weeks we’ve been working with companies to review how work moves through their business. They’ve begun mapping out the steps from the time the customer says, “I think I want to print something,” all the way to when you get paid for the work. Working with small teams from adjacent departments to build this map has been eye opening for those involved. Comments from the huddles included, “Why do you do it that way,” and “I thought we changed that procedure when we got the new gizmo.” The goal with this exercise is to identify and reduce the non-value added and redundant steps in each stage of the process. This is one step towards moving the work faster through the shop. This is also an approach for those interested in lean manufacturing concepts, but not quite ready to make the full commitment it takes for lean to be successful.

Constraints and airports

Here’s another example of the importance of velocity, from a personal experience. As we all know, traveling through airports can be a real joyful experience, like going to the dentist! On a recent trip through an international airport, I was met with the dreaded text of “your flight has been canceled, next flight is tomorrow at 6:10am.” So, I worked my way back out of the airport, through customs, a train ride, and walked into the airport hotel for a quick nap. I arrived at the airport early the next morning, not sure how long it would take to clear security and customs. Funny thing was, other people had the same idea and when I got to the security area the queue was already building – even in the fast lane. There was a long line of people to process, with a dozen security lanes but only two lanes manned. The wait in line was painful. But wait, it gets better. After safely going through security, I embarked on yet another queue. You see, customs wasn’t open yet. The queue continued to build until thirty minutes later when the customs lanes opened. The same drill was experienced there as well, over twenty-five stations with five of them staffed. Queues, bottlenecks, and pinch points lead to constraints in getting the work out, or in this case, getting me quickly to the gate.

I totally understand that you can’t afford to have people waiting around in case a job comes to their department to be worked on. These are times when you must think creatively about the flow of your work and the production speed and capacity of your equipment. Try to align your equipment and staffing to minimize bottlenecks and queues. You may already have the right complement of people, but you may need to stagger their shifts to coincide with the cadence of your work. Think of yourself as a job going through your shop – how much time would be spent waiting in a line vs. being worked on?

Building a business can be both brutal and rewarding. Addressing this issue could just make things a bit more rewarding for you and your team. Please add any comments or questions below. Good luck!

Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at www.philiegroup.comLinkedIn or email at

Originally published in Printing Impressions.


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