The plane landed, we began to taxi to the gate, and passengers started to shift in their seats. I took my briefcase from under the seat in front of me and placed it in the aisle. It’s a ritual I’ve repeated for years; I am sure everyone has their own process.

The reason I do this is simple; if I did not, anxious passengers hoping to escape the confines of the airplane would make it tough to merge.

A couple months ago, CNN published “Is this the best way to disembark an airplane?” along with a video that showed a plane of experienced travelers that have been commuting for some time on the same itinerary, and by some natural form of inspiration, came to a profound conclusion: Exiting from the first row and subsequent rows in order is the fastest and most efficient approach. The actual video, taken from the rear of the plane, inspired the caption “the art of deplaning.” Ironically, the article said nothing about this practice as being sympathetic to your fellow human being.

A team of engineers at Northwestern University took this finding one step further. They conducted simulated tests as part of a study titled “Structured Deplaning Via Simulation and Optimization” and concluded “structured deplaning may reduce deplaning time by over 40% on a full aircraft.”

Not all examples of on or off-boarding are as intuitive: a recent study of traffic flow found that cars that wait until the very last moment to merge into freeway traffic produce the best flow and least amount of congestion. Ironically, motorists might view cars waiting until the last moment to merge as taking advantage of other motorists.

If you are a manager responsible for the supply or movement of resources, a little research into best practices can pay huge dividends.

When we tolerate random movement of resources in our immediate environment, we get what we deserve, like when we stock our pantry and use what is within reach, and then wonder why we have canned goods from the previous decade.

If you are a manager responsible for the supply or movement of resources, a little research into best practices can pay huge dividends. The variety of methodologies goes beyond what can be covered here, but some terms and approaches new to the reader might warrant further investigation. Note some of these design options can be combined:

LIFO vs. FIFO. LIFO is the preferred means for a company to value ending inventory of an accounting period, because less-costly items are usually sold first, and higher cost inventory translates to lower taxes. FIFO may be preferred for companies that prioritize understanding the accurate cost because it assumes that older less-costly items are usually sold first.

Push vs. Pull. A process that “pulls” will not advance until the customer indicates they are ready to consume the final product. Forecasting demand is improved, and wastes or delays reduced. The alternative, to “push” production, has been the mainstay of the automotive industry, where inventory ends up on a lot, and the sales agent must now persuade you to purchase a vehicle you really didn’t want. 

Load leveling and Heijunka are advanced methods for breaking out a repetitive process into sequential steps, and allocating resources to complete steps efficiently. Highway meters attempt to do some load leveling for us by holding up those anxious motorists from entering the freeway in the first place. Heijunka would have helped “I Love Lucy” to wrap more chocolates.

The fact the CNN article on “the art of deplaning” needed to be written at all—and it DID need to be written—is an unfortunate commentary on our behavior when we travel, but human nature does not always gravitate to the best process.  But embracing the concepts here means you need not tolerate the impact of a random behavior, nor do you need be the last one off the plane.