Don’t raise the bar — reduce the variation

The chart below was just released by ATRI, the American Transportation Research Institute, in A Survey of Fuel Economy and Fuel Usage by Heavy-Duty Truck Fleets.

Using what is called a box chart to show the data on fuel economy reminded me of the basics of lean management and statistical process control. The basics that were preached by W. Edwards Deming for years. Deming is quoted as: “If I had to reduce my message for management to just a few words, I’d say it all had to do with reducing variation.”

It also reminds me of the story of crabs in a bucket. It’s difficult for a crab to climb out of the bucket because all the other crabs keep grabbing and pulling down.

As a society, we continue to raise the bar by raising the requirements of the emissions regulations around the world. Some effort also goes into providing financial incentives to people at the bottom to trade in their old equipment for new, more fuel-efficient vehicles. We need to make sure we are not raising the variation between the best and the worst, but closing this gap.

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