I’ve been traveling a lot lately. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to think and observe airline operations and one thing is abundantly clear: the airline industry is a very mature industry but, man, is it incredibly inefficient and full of waste. Take my experience a few weeks ago traveling from Nashville to Salt Lake City: my flight was delayed for over an hour because the crew hadn’t yet arrived! Really? And in general, customers aren’t happy with most airlines.
I know some of my colleagues within the Lean community will be disappointed in what I’m about to say, but I’ve actually enjoyed Mckinsey’s recent series on Lean Manufacturing. I like them because they are written by Mckinsey consultants who used to work in industry – primarily operations and manufacturing. So, they feel more authentic than if they had just graduated from business school and produced some Management Consulting PowerPoint Template or something. In one recent series on lean manufacturing, Mckinsey describes an assignment where they were able to reduce delays or reduce wait time for an airline. I found this article to be perfect, given my recent experience with flying 1.
Look at the chart below, taken from that Mckinsey article. The chart shows the difference in turnaround times between flights and the changes they did to reduce the average turnaround time from 52:18 to 33:11, a substantial reduction given that idle planes represents a significant drain on both costs and revenue.
In another example, Mckinsey shows the difference that Lean can make in improving the deplaning process. They look at each step such as Unload Passengers, Wait for cleaning crew to board aircraft, clean airplane, etc and show the reduction in time that they were able to reduce through the use of lean methods.
Here’s the really interesting thing about their results: They made many small changes and yielded big improvements overall.
That’s the beauty of Lean – small changes – many of them can produce big, big positive results.
- http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/travel_transportation/the_hidden_value_in_airline_operations ↩