Ergonomics done right.®
March 24th, 2008

TSA and the Double-Diamond Lane: Are Behavioral Solutions Enough?

Recently, the TSA announced that it would be trying a new system to speed up the security check-in process at airports. The process will use different lines for travelers with varying degrees of travel expertise; similar to the labeling of ski runs. So, if you are an experienced business traveler that has already designed a system to  pull your laptop out with one hand while simultaneously kicking off your slip-on shoes, flipping them into the air and catching them in a bin with the other hand, and then adding your baggie of 3 ounce toiletries, you can enter the double diamond line. This will free you from having to sit on line behind the family vacationers who cannot fold their stroller to fit through the x-ray machine and whose children are afraid to walk alone towards the friendly screener (many of you have fit both of these profiles at one time or another).

Everyone in our company travels a lot, so this is a welcome improvement, if it works. I say IF because this strategy has a flaw as it will depend solely on people’s choices and behaviors to speed things up.

If you travel as much as we do, you’ve had a lot of opportunities to observe the security process and have probably come to the same conclusion as I have; the lines aren’t caused by behavior – they are a product of the poorly designed equipment that screeners and travelers have at their disposal.

Since the flow of people through that system is no different than products through a manufacturing plant, the application of ergonomic and industrial engineering principles could help immensely to minimize the cycle time required for each traveler and screener to complete their duties.

  • Have a post-screen assembly area – how many times have you had to wait until someone finishes getting dressed before you can grab your bag and go? Removing assembly from processing (screening) allows those that need less assembly (dressing/bagging/etc.) to get through in real time.
  • Have a pre-screen prep area that has a constantly replenished supply of bins – how often do you find yourself rushing to get all your stuff into bins because the table in front of the screener is too short? How easy is it to forget to remove something in that short period of time and therefore needing a rescreen (rework)?

Any other improvement thoughts?