Pitch is a representation of takt image - a visual and often audible management timeframe that lean practitioners use to pace and monitor value stream performance. It is typically driven by, and linked to, a value stream or line’s pacemaker process. Pitch performance is routinely tracked and reinforced with plan vs actual charts (a.k.a. production analysis boards), digital displays, lines that are “pulsed” or indexed every time interval, etc.
The principle behind the math is around early identification and timely reaction to problems. Accordingly, pitch should be matched to the organization’s (hopefully, ever improving) capability to react to problems. If pitch is too short, then it may not invite anything other than frustration. If pitch is too long, then problems will fester and grow before they are flagged.
Essentially, pitch’s takt image is a reflection of takt time and what we’ll call a “pace multiple.” The pace multiple is often, but not always, a release, conveyance, or shipment quantity. It is an oversimplification to say it is always a packout quantity, although that is a good place to start.
Sometimes, pace multiple selection is more an application of good, pragmatic lean judgment. In other words, when things like release and conveyance quantities are either too big or small (perhaps the product is very large or cumbersome) to provide a useful takt image or are just not applicable (like in many non-manufacturing value streams), the lean practitioner may need to “back into” a useful interval – like 30 or 60 minutes.
While pitch is typically a multiple of takt time, that is not always practical. In some instances, when takt time is extremely long, such as hours, days or even weeks, pitch is appropriately a fraction of takt. In this situation, it is sometimes referred to as “inverse pitch,” (Pi) and ensures that the management time frame is finite enough to provide workers and leadership timely feedback.
Some math for pitch and inverse pitch follows: