50 years ago, a theory was proven that, while simple in nature, has single-handedly effected numerous industries. From medical facilities to banks, to retail stores and manufacturing, Little’s Law has made a big mark. In 1961, current M.I.T. professor John D.C. Little proved that the “average number of items in a system (L) is equal to the average time an item spends (lambda) in the system multiplied by the average rate at which these items enter (W) the system.
After reading this the first time, it may cause some confusion, but after realistic examples, the theory becomes clear. The “system” mentioned could be anything from a manufacturing facility to an actual retail store. At Invistics, we reference this law during our Pull Design workshops. The Pull technique can be found within Little’s Law. Little’s Law centers around finding ways to reduce the amount of product and time spent in a factory, and Pull centers around being able to control the actual flow of needed materials. Thus, forming a perfect blend of theories. Many workshop participants are surprised at how small changes in time and inventory can positively affect outcomes. If done right, even a reduction of 1 day can lead to huge savings in inventory.
So this month, we take the time to recognize John D.C. Little’s contribution. Has Little’s Law had an effect on your organization? Let’s discuss.