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Analyze Southwest’s Passenger Boarding Process Using the Theory of Constraints

Essay by   •  October 23, 2015  •  Case Study  •  630 Words (3 Pages)  •  3,826 Views

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Analyze Southwest’s passenger boarding process using the Theory of Constraints

Southwest used the Theory of Constraints (TOC) to address a bottleneck constraint in the passenger boarding process.  Southwest understood that the passenger boarding process was adding more time to the aircraft turnaround process and therefore introducing an operational constraint into their workflow and limiting profits, not to mention customer satisfaction.  The goal in addressing this process however was not to identify how to board everyone as quickly as possible but rather to get everyone boarded as efficiently as possible. This is to say that even if everyone could board the plane and be ready to go in 15 minutes, if the aircraft was still taking on fuel and re-stocking the food and beverages, this is still an issue and would ultimately lead to poor customer satisfaction, not to mention just moving the constraint to a different section in the aircraft turnaround process.  Southwest did a good job in testing many different options and was careful to not just select the single process that boarded passengers the fastest, but instead selected a combination of two approaches that was efficient and lead to increased customer satisfaction.

Which boarding scenario among the different ones proposed would you recommend for implementation? Why?

I would recommend the one that Southwest ultimately chose which combined two different tests, loading families after boarding group A, and boarding gate line positions based on group and arrival time.  This solution allows families to sit together anywhere they wish after group A so you are not specifically limiting families to a specific portion of the aircraft and allowing group A to have first pick which based on arrival time seems fair.  I also like that the different boarding groups allow passengers to not all stand in line at the same time, but rather only stand in line with your specific boarding group.  The video mentioned that in the option of everyone standing in lines all at the same time, it caused for passengers in later boarding groups to get frustrated by the time they had to wait for other groups before them to board and as a passenger I would feel the same way.  In the selected method the passengers are really only standing in line for as long as necessary which in my experience is about 4 minutes.  All of this is looking at TOC and managing the bottleneck effectively by exploiting the bottleneck and creating a schedule to maximize the throughput.


How should Southwest evaluate the gate boarding and plane turnaround process?

As I mentioned previously Southwest should evaluate the boarding and plane turnaround process by looking at every process in the system prior to managing the passenger bottleneck.  Once Southwest has determined that there are no other bottlenecks in the process that can be addressed, then you can focus on the passenger boarding process.

In terms of evaluation of the process overall I think Southwest should evaluate the process by timing, accuracy, and customer satisfaction.  The process should not just solely come down to efficiency but also put a focus on accuracy and completion of work.  If a plane can be turned around in 15 minutes but the aircraft doesn’t have enough fuel to make it to its destination because fueling time was cut short, that is likely going to be a problem.



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