Pull or Push #4: The supermarket checkout

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On Monday, we described a pull system in a factory and how it differed from a push system often used by software teams. We are following that post with a 10-day series looking at push and pull systems in everyday life, asking what you think and offering our thoughts.

Scenario number 4 is the supermarket checkout


Image courtesy of www.gratisography.com on pexels.com

Our thoughts

Each till at a supermarket is its own PULL system and it has a strict work-in-progress limit of 1. Nobody expects the cashier to serve two people simultaneously and they expect to be dealt with in turn.

However, many supermarkets now have a flexible WIP across their tills as a whole: opening new ones when demand is sufficient. My local Coop is efficient at this: there is just one person at the tills until demand increases, and they can then call for up to two additional staff to deal with excess customers.

Even self-checkouts work on a pull system: you can’t have more than one customer using a self-service checkout.


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