“The kids are hungry, the driver has a headache and everyone has to go to the bathroom. If you’re traveling by car on a holiday weekend, the last thing you want to find at a roadside rest stop is a long line for a toilet. Companies that run major highway service plazas in Japan go to considerable lengths to ensure you never will, as they compete for the coveted Japan Toilet Award from the transportation ministry…”
Sourced through the New York Times
Michel Baudin‘s comments: When at airports or museums, you find the Men’s room readily accessible while there is a long line of women waiting on the other side, you cannot help but blame the architects for lack of respect for humanity. The buildings may look great, and may even excel at their primary function — getting passengers on and off airplanes, or giving access to cultural treasures — but they suck at details that are vital to the basic, physical comfort of their users.
Capacity planning should not be based on building codes but on observations and measurements that show, for example, that women use restrooms 40% more often than men and for three times as long each visit. Then, if you know that peak usage is 600 men and 800 women per hour arriving independently, you can apply basic queueing theory to calculate the number of stalls needed to ensure that there is at least one available for an arriving customer 95% of the time.
According to the article, Nexco Central Nippon Expressway promises that patrons never wait more than two minutes. At their Neopasa Shimizu stop seen above, near Shizuoka, 25,000 people may stop on a weekend, and there are 72 stalls for women, compared with 14 stalls and 32 urinals for men. A screen mounted outside the restroom shows which stalls are free, with icons showing whether the available toilets are sitting or squatting.
Factories are also places where human beings spend 8-hour shifts, that architects and engineers must attend to. It’s not just production lines and machines. You have to have a plan for people entering the facility without being run over by trucks, store their personal belongings, change into work clothes, go to their work stations, eat use restrooms, and leave at the end of the shift. The best time to address these issues is upfront, when you build the plant. The cost of fixing errors afterwards can be prohibitive.
Three years ago, in a post on Kaizen in Japan Versus The Rest Of The World, I concluded with a discussion of “Kaizen that stinks” ((泥臭い改善, dorokusai kaizen), which was improvement activities on the kind of dirty jobs that do not receive much management attention. This kind of Kaizen, however, is a vehicle to accumulate the knowledge needed to design the kind of facilities hailed in this article.