Video Case: Constraint Management at Southwest Airlines
Question 1: Analyze Southwest’s passenger boarding process using the Theory of Constraints.
Southwest Airlines is an airline company that has set industry benchmarks of having the best turnaround ratios, in an industry where lead time during different operations is very time consuming. Southwest currently boasts a rapid gate-turnaround of 25 minutes or less, and it demonstrates how attention to activities pertaining to ground operations (including cleaning of the aircraft, fuelling and flight preparation) can help the company in being so operationally efficient. Customers rave about low fares, exceptional customer service, and the biggest competitive advantage that Southwest has over its competitors is its’ ability to have a lack of assigned seating that allows customers to choose where they can sit on the plane. Having a turnaround of 25 minutes or less brings about potential areas of bottlenecks; for instance if wheelchair assistance is required for passengers, a bottleneck might arise that may hinder the turnaround time of 25 minutes. Hence, operations managers at Southwest need to carefully evaluate the current processes in order to achieve better efficiency and reach turnaround times even lower than 25 minutes.
The Theory of Constraints is a systematic management approach that focuses on actively managing those constraints that impede a firm’s progress towards its goal. Southwest Airlines currently wants to make improvements to its current operations infrastructure to allow for better turnaround times. The boarding process currently in place can be viewed as a waiting line problem; passengers are assigned to different groups depending on their arrival time and are processed in a single line that is prioritized. The current assortment that Southwest has implemented is similar to a two-phased, single...