When I Am Working on My Machine Please Don’t Interrupt

Did you know that a task that’s interrupted takes much longer and has more mistakes than an uninterrupted one? A machine operator who is working on a project can get into a focused state where he is able to concentrate on a task without feeling interrupted. Once the operator is in that state, he can have a productive flow.

Those of us who are bender/rollers, companies who specialize in curving structural steel, steel plate and steel sheet, are acutely aware of  this phenomenon.  We know that the majority of our work is custom, that rolling steel is an art, and that the process requires close attention.

Interrupters are disruption from external inputs. Interrupters occur when the machine operator does not have all the information to complete the task and has to go ask for more information. When a job order is not accurate or complete the operator will have to go back to the office and ask for the missing or unclear instruction.

Other interrupters occur when the machine operator has to look for tooling or wait for a crane to finish his work.

Interrupters can also be another person’s coming up to the operator and talking about an unrelated project. Sometimes a quick question turns into a lengthy conversation.

Have you ever been briefly interrupted by someone, only to extend that interruption by concluding that since you’ve already paused working, you might as well take a bathroom break, text message a loved one, eat some food etc.? When a person is interrupted, on average it takes them 15 minutes to get back to the original task, and also another 20 minutes to return to the flow of full productivity. An interruption can derail an operator’s focus so much that it might take that person hours to get back to the original task, if they even get back to it that day.

Interrupters are expensive to an organization. In the United States, more than $650 billion a year in productivity is lost because of unnecessary interruptions, predominately mundane matters, according to Basex. The firm says that a big chunk of that cost comes from the time it takes people to recover from an interruption and get back to work.


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