Point of Beginning Blog

Sight Lines: The Cost of Inefficiency

July 30, 2009
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I’ll admit it-I’m not a good traveler. Oh, I get along just fine when everything goes according to plan and all of my flights stay on schedule. But how often does that happen, really?

So it was with a good bit of self-control that I found myself standing in line last week waiting to hear how the airline that had inexplicably cancelled my flight 30 minutes before its scheduled departure time and sent me racing back out past security to the main ticket counter might be planning to get me home. Despite being tired and grouchy, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the frazzled ticket agents who were frantically trying to reroute all of the angry, impatient customers. When it was my turn to approach the counter, I willed myself to be nice. “You guys must love your job on days like this,” I said casually, sympathetically.

“It happens all the time with this flight,” the ticket agent replied with a sigh. “It’s always either cancelled or late due to one mechanical problem or another. When it’s actually on time, we knock on wood.”

What? It happens all the time? As the ticket agents handed out hotel passes and food vouchers, I couldn’t help but think about all the money the airline was wasting. And why? Because it couldn’t afford to pull this particular plane out of service and replace it with a newer, more efficient model?

The scenario sounds familiar, though. We’ve all heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But sometimes we tend to carry that motto to the opposite extreme. If it is broke, we fix it, and then we fix it again and again in the hope that we can put off that new purchase as long as possible. All the while, we ignore how much the outdated equipment is costing us in inefficiency and lost business. We simply can’t afford to replace it, not in this economy.

I eventually made it home-almost 12 hours later than my scheduled arrival time. I lost sleep and valuable work hours. It’s just an accepted part of traveling. And yet my time is irreplaceable.

From that perspective, cost takes on a whole new meaning.

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