Credit to FreeTetris.org for the image.
Tetris is a game which involves arranging falling shapes to form complete rows without gaps.
Planning for manufacturing or distribution services can be done very effectively using the ‘Tetris Principle‘ – a term coined by Owen at Asymptomatic.
“If you want to score big in Tetris, you can’t simply continuously build endless series of single completed rows at the bottom of the board. What you need to do is build the board up so that there’s a hole in it that is one block wide and four blocks tall. Eventually, with a little luck or a little planning, the 1×4 piece that fits in that slot will fall, and you’ll score the highest bonus available in the game.”
Whether one completes a single row or several rows at once, the overall goal in Tetris is to eliminate gaps. Effective planning and scheduling really has the same goal.
If you can think of gaps as lost capacity and visualize the work center routing as the shape of each ‘piece’. You have the conceptual basis for an effective planning and scheduling system.
Add capacities for each area and resource restraints (maximum effective crewing, shift schedules, break times, maintenance schedules, work and material availability, etc.) and you have the components for effective real-world scheduling tools.
Just add data and programming logic and floor controls, transportation routing, supply chain logistics, and many other processes can be optimized to the point where for a given system or process it would not be physically possible to produce more in a fixed amount of time while using less resources.
The economic benefits of system or process optimization is the value of all the ‘gaps’ that previously existed in the process. The payoff for companies that optimize their processes can be tremendous.
Visualizing work processes as ‘shapes’ which can be arranged to use capacity and resources effectively and developing management systems to use the ‘Tetris Principle’ is one example of applied Innovation for Business.