A simulation of bucket brigades shows the power of simulation to illustrate dynamic concepts.
On the one hand, read the explanation:
“..A classic difficulty in the management of flow lines is to balance the line so that it will be maximally productive. This requires precise and time-consuming identification of the work elements and estimates of standard work-content. For example, assembly lines are balanced by teams of engineers, who define task elements and then conduct time-motion studies so that the work can be divided equally among workers. Because bucket brigades are self-organizing, the need for centralized planning and management is reduced…. The operation of bucket brigades is simple: Each worker carries a product towards completion; when the last worker finishes his product he sends it off and then walks back upstream to take over the work of his predecessor, who walks back and takes over the work of his predecessor and so on, until after relinquishing his product, the first worker walks back to the start to begin a new product. If, in addition, workers are sequenced from slowest to fastest, then we call the system a bucket brigade and the workers will, we have proven, spontaneously gravitate to the optimal division of work so that throughput is maximized….”
Alternatively, watch the simulation (see the hyperlink). (This is a java applet embedded in the page.) Easier, isnt it?
The page was set up by John Bartholdi of the School of Industrial Engineering, Georgia Tech.