Especially for SME – 7: Vital Few Trivial Many in Work centres.

29 September 2021


Mr. Lowe: The law of VFTM (Vital Few Trivial Many) is not only true and works in Materials and Men universally, but also in every other M. Also – again universally. This is why I call it Universal Law of Energy. This is the way Nature distributes all resources.

SME 1: How do you say, for example, this law is applicable to Machines?

Mr. Lowe: Take a walk in your shop floor and locate the work-centre before which a lot of queue of material is waiting to be machined or assembled. Unless this work-centre clears the queue, all other work centres will have to idle sooner or later. So are we wrong in saying that the current output of the whole plant is decided by this one work-centre?

SME 2: Yes, but we have never looked at it that way! We wait for this one work-centre, which has become the bottleneck work-centre- to clear the queue and assume we have no other choice as we cannot afford to buy another of this machine! Again money problem!

Mr. Lowe: But first can we call this work-centre the vital few work-centre? It is vital few because the entire output of the whole Plant is now being controlled by this one work-centre. So the cost per hour of this work- centre is the cost of the whole plant and not just one machine. It can so happen that the same item (material) and the same work centre consistently causing disturbance in the free flow of output. These are certainly Vital Few.

SME 3: So true, but we don’t look at like that at all: We criticize the supervisor, shout at the worker and walk along, that is all we do!

Mr. Lowe: But you won’t stop with that only if you look at it as a vital few machine! You will think how to reduce the idle time of this work centre. You will have another worker working at this machine when the regular worker is taking lunch and tea. You can put this machine on one and a half and two shifts. You will ensure the key spares of this machine never run out of stock by having a cushion that can be used at any time, as you do not want a ball-bearing for example, to hold this machine idle for even a few minutes.

SME 1: Yes we have not thought of that way at all, we have got satisfied we have a lot of work load for that machine at least!

Mr. Lowe: So we have vital few and trivial many in machines as well. In one biscuit manufacturing plant, I have seen in the entire mass production line, the line keeps moving but the packing of biscuits at the end of the line which is a manual operation was the bottle-neck work centre controlling the entire output of the automatic line production. The owner had put some 8 people on this job but even this was insufficient. I told him to add 2 more people and he said that adds cost. But the additional cost on manpower is seen but the cost of the loss of production due to the absence of these men is invisible. Can we train ourselves to see the invisible as a habit?

SME 2: Even God is invisible!

Mr. Lowe: Anything invisible is more powerful than anything visible, only because that thing is invisible! And we need guru to see invisible things, can I add, Like me!

All SME’s: We can’t agree more!

Mr. Lowe: This means one very important thing: we have to give a differential treatment to vital few compared to trivial many of the same category. If we give the same treatment we are doing a blunder and are ineffective. For examples in the above case if we treat the vital few work-centres, the same way as the trivial many, we are ineffective.

SME 1: Absolutely clear now, we have to start practicing this immediately. …….. contd.


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