X-raying the Cash-Cow - a Lesson in using Bottlenecks to Make More Money

I've been travelling from Manchester airport to Edinburgh, weekly for a couple of months now.

Something odd happened today: it took well less than 5 minutes to get through security, down from the normal 15 - 30 minutes, and that had an interesting knock on effect, - the waiting area is extra full and there are big queues in all of the shops - and it provides my imagination of a fascinating example of how bottlenecks can cost/make businesses a lot of money.

I'm not sure what happened to speed up the security process, although it might just be that they put more staff on the machines. Whatever it was, it looks like their check-in bottleneck has, perhaps temporarily, moved from the security scanners to the shopping/waiting area.

Let's say the security scanning process is 15 minutes faster today. Let's say most passengers previously spent 45 minutes waiting in the shopping/waiting zone before they got called to their gate. They're now spending 60 minutes there. There are now roughly 1/3rd more passengers in the waiting zone, and the seats are all taken. There are roughly 1/3rd more customers in the shops, and, the way queues work, small changes in demand can cause them to grow disproportionately, and (to me) it looks like the queues are 3 or 4 times bigger than normal. Those queues sound good but shops want customers paying, not queuing to pay, and not walking away because the queues are unbearable.

If the check-in bottleneck has moved permanently, then maybe the shops should start looking at their checkout processes and speed them up a smidgen so they don't lose sales from people like me who won't queue unless desperate?  They should milk that cash-cow.

Likewise, maybe the airport will, after a while, once everyone agrees the cash cow is hanging around, threaten to slow the security down,again, unless the shops agree to pay higher rentals?

I'm guessing it cost the airport 3 extra security staff to speed up their security. Maybe it was 6. Who know?  I'm guessing. But let's say it cost them £250k a year. I bet the increased spending in the shops (provided the shops increase their payment capacity so they can milk the cash cow) is worth at least £250k a month, probably more.

It's funny, I've been spending my time in security, over these recent months looking around contemplating how they might speed up the security process.  When you learn TOC you tend to do that; it's frustrating but it fills in time. I'd always looked at it from the point of view of a customer, someone who was stuck inside the system. It wasn't until I saw the queues in the shops that I put my business eyes on and saw a cash cow there waiting to be milked.

clarke ching2 Comments