Part I: "What sets the pace of production?"

(excerpted from The Pipeline)

“Every method of production planning and management involves the scheduling of a sequence of tasks performed by resources”, continued the intrepid, results-based consultant, making another list on the board.


“Central to that understanding are three issues, framed by these questions: What sets the pace of production? How do we protect the process from variation and uncertainty? How do we manage a process as a system (not a collection of independent activities)?

“Let’s consider the first process scheduling issue. What should we be using to set the pace of a production process?”

“Doesn’t the job schedule set the production pace?”, asked a superintendent.

“Not really”, argued a different superintendent. “The job schedule sets the sequence and expected durations of activities for each house There’s sequence and duration, but no rhythm. That’s what pace is – the rhythm of the production system. Pace applies to the entire system, not each individual job. If we don’t see it as a production system, we just have a collection of separate, disconnected job schedules.

“I would think pace has to do with a resource.”

“Okay”, said the intrepid results-based consultant. “Presume the pace of production should be set by some type resource. What kind of resource? What kind of attributes would you look for in a resource tasked with setting the production pace of the entire system?”

The ideas came in rapid fashion.

“The most important resource?”
“The most expensive?”
“The most reliable?”
“The busiest?”

“Lean Production calls its pacesetting resource a “pacemaker””, she said. “Lean Production tries to schedule a single point (the pacemaker), which, in turn, sets the pace for the entire system, process, or value stream. It sets that pace to match the rate of “customer demand”, or what Lean calls “takt”. The purpose of “takt time” is to precisely match production with customer demand.

“It is the heartbeat of a Lean Production system.”