pareto efficency

Pareto Efficiency for Engineers

AEHQ Essential Non-Technical Advice for Engineers Leave a Comment

The 80/20 Rule

I am a huge fan of the Pareto Principal or “80/20 rule” which states that 20% of the effort or time you put forth will yield 80% of your results. This principal came from an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who determined that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. This pattern is seen everywhere. 20% of the population owns 80% of the money. 20% of the people at work cause you 80% of your problems. If you can identify and focus on that 20% from the beginning, you will be able to grow much quicker in your role.

Ok Great. How can I use it?

 A good example of the principal put to use is when I handle design deviations that result from our manufacturing process. When there is a slight issue with a part dimension or measurement, production is required to write a deviation to be able to use the parts. It is my job to determine if these issues will affect the function of the part or if it could lead to any issue with the lifetime of the vehicle like it exploding or something. If I focused intensely on knowing how to answer every deviation that came to my desk, I would be focusing on probably 100 parts with 100 dimensions on each that could affect function. However, there are only 5-10 deviations I can think of on the top of my head that I deal with almost every day. These represent more than 80% of the deviations I deal with on a weekly basis. I make sure that I am an expert at answering those types of problems, or I go out and try to fix the root cause and eliminate the problem altogether. If I can solve even one of these, I may have eliminated most of the time I spend weekly on deviations. For all the other less common deviations, I absolutely need to know how to answer -but why would I study the problem and give them the same weight I do for the ones that come up all the time?

Keep a look out for that 20%Pareto Efficiency visual

Keep Pareto efficiency in mind when you are working in any engineering field because I can promise you, you will see specific issues, or tasks that come up time and time again. Identifying and focusing on these few issues, will greatly benefit you in your career. You will be able to get much more done in a smaller amount of time, because as you get better at the common issues, you will have more time to work on and improve those really difficult problems that come up every now and then.

So for the next week, identify the specific work or tasks that take up 80% of your time, and break it down into the few items that cause it. What are those few skills you can learn and improve on that will help solve most of the issues you face day to day? To get you started here are some things to think about for the different departments in automotive engineering.

Pareto Efficiency for a Design/ Development Role:

  • What are the 20% of the design tools that you use to develop your parts? Which ones are more effective for getting the work done quickly and accurately?
  • What 20% of your design responsibilities cause you 80% of the problems later on?
  • What are the few resources you can refer to that can help you with most of your workload?
  • Which few tolerances or dimensions on your parts causes production the most amount of trouble?
  • Which few tests can almost always identify problems in the parts before they get to production?

Pareto Efficiency for the Manufacturing Role:

  • Which few processes cause you the majority of your problems? (I’m sure you can name shout these out without hesitation!)
  • Which 20% of parts can you work on with design to improve 80% of the issues you are having?
  • Who are the few people outside your department that you can refer to for most of the issues you have?
  • Where are the few issues that cause the majority of your downtime?

Pareto Efficiency for the Quality Role

  • What are the few issues that are always coming up that require a long term solution to solve?
  • What few parts in the DFMEA or PFMEA do you see the most potential risk for.
  • Which few suppliers cause the majority of the problems at your facility (Focus on them or try to replace them with better suppliers.)
  • What several part tolerances are always out of spec and need to be better controlled or redesigned?
  • What few measurements are always being requested and is there a way to measure them more efficiently and accurately?
  • What are the 20% of the customer complaints that recur & really piss them off the most?

These are just examples, but if you do identify your few problems areas and focus on solving those issues first, it will be a huge benefit to your department and your company as a whole. You can greatly advance your career by looking for those few areas that contribute 80% of the pain and problems in your company. Keep in mind, although the Pareto Principal is best used to help you focus your efforts more efficiently, you shouldn’t completely ignore the issues that only come up once in a while. However, applying Pareto Efficiency in your work will help you to learn and grow in your role much faster. This will lead to massive effectiveness in handling whatever workload you are given.

Best of luck and keep your eyes open for how you can apply Pareto Efficiency to make a huge impact on your productivity.

So what are those damn few issues that you see at work that cause you 80% of your effort?  How do you handle them? Let us know below!

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