Individual learning: improvement that results when people repeat a process and gain skill or efficiency from their own experience
Practice makes perfect
Organizational learning: also comes from changes in administration, equipment, and product design
Expect to see both simultaneously
Application of Learning Curves
Learning curve: a line displaying the relationship between unit production time and the cumulative number of units produced
Wide range of applications
Can be used to estimate time and cost
One of the trade-offs in JIT
Learning Curve Assumptions
The amount of time required to complete a given task or unit of a product will be less each time the task is undertaken.
The unit time will decrease at a decreasing rate.
The reduction in time will follow a predictable pattern.
Finding the Learning Rate
Some other curve-fitting method
Learning Curves Plotted as Times and Numbers of Units
Plotting Learning Curves
In practice, learning curves are plotted using a graph with logarithmic scales.
The unit curves become linear throughout their entire range.
The cumulative curve becomes linear after the first few unit.
Direct logarithmic analysis is more efficient because it does not require a complete enumeration of successive time–output combinations.
Data for an 80 Percent Learning Curve
Resulting Learning Curve Plots
Estimating the Learning Percentage
Assume that the learning percentage will be the same as it has been for previous applications within the same industry.
Assume that it will be the same as it has been for the same or similar products.
Analyze the similarities and differences between the proposed start-up and previous start-ups and develop a revised learning percentage that appears to best fit the situation.
Proper selection of workers
Do one or very few jobs at a time
Use tools that support performance
Provide quick and easy access for help
Allow workers to help redesign tasks
An Example Involving Two Job Applicants
Organizations learn as well.
A main source is individual learning.
An organization also acquires knowledge in its technology, its structure, documents it retains, and standard operating procedures.
Knowledge can also be embedded in the organizational structure.
Knowledge can depreciate if individuals leave the organization.
Knowledge can depreciate if technologies become inaccessible or difficult to use.
Individual learning and incentives
Workers and organization must have adequate incentives to enhance learning.
Learning on new jobs versus old jobs
The newer the job, the greater the improvements possible.
Improvement comes from working smarter, not harder
Suggesting a learning rate leads to a built-in bias
Learning rate becomes a goal instead of an independent phenomenon.
Better methods and support systems, not increased effort, are the source of gains.
Preproduction versus postproduction adjustments
High levels of preproduction planning mean early units will already incorporate a significant amount of learning.
Changes in indirect labor and supervision
Changes to production conditions can influence the learning rate.
Changes in purchasing practices, methods, and organizational structure
Significant adjustments to any of these factors can affect production rate.
As a contract nears completion, learning curve may begin to turn upward.
Summary of key points
Individuals and organizations learn at predictable rates.
Estimated learning rates are used to predict performance and costs over time.
Learning rates vary with individuals.
Skills learned on similar jobs can transfer – require experience to be hired.
The more complex the task, the slower the learning.
The more simple the task, the sooner learning and productivity happen.
Job specialization divides tasks into more simple activities to increase learning and productivity.