Understanding the Restroom Process

Let’s preface this, with the understanding that this is a post about understanding, automating and optimizing your processes.  I’m genuinely interested to see if anyone looks at this post with a different idea in mind, based on the title of this post :).

It’s a scary time at the moment with the COVID-19 virus travelling from country to country.  One of the things that has really surprised me, is the reaction from a lot of people. They aren’t really hunkering down in the residences and staying clear of people.  I still see people going to the stores and restaurants.  It definitely has reduced the number of people walking about, but not to the extent that I thought would happen.  What has been surprising, is this mass purchasing and hoarding of toilet paper.  I’m not hear to judge.  To each their own, and I hope that there are some really awesome looking toilet paper fortresses out there.

Now I want to tackle this problem and really understand it.

What’s the problem?
  • I want toilet paper
How much should I buy?
  • a lot!!
Where will I store it?
  • I’ll make room, or I’ll make another house out of it.
How long will it last me?
  • Hopefully long enough.

So you can see from the questions above, I didn’t really have good answers.  That’s because I know I need something.  I know I will use it.  I know it’s required.  But I have no idea how much of it I use and how often, to really understand how much I need, and how long it will last.  If I knew those answers and I could estimate how long a problem will continue to exist, I would be in a better position to know how much I need to buy.

The first step here, is to understand the process of using the toilet paper. 

Version 1

  1. Install a roll of your usual Toilet Paper
  2. Take note of the date and time
  3. Tell the family/room mates to let you know AS SOON AS that roll is empty
  4. Take note of the date and time
  5. Calculate how long that role lasted in time
  6. You can now estimate how long a pack of rolls will last you, approximately

Now of course there are some risks with Version 1, because you don’t know how often people are using the bathroom, and you are also relying on a person to tell you when the role was finished.  What if they forgot and told you a few days later?  Your results will be skewed or completely inaccurate.

Version 2

  1. Install an iPad onto the restroom wall
  2. Build a form to capture data
  3. Conduct a household meeting, explaining they have to fill in a form every time they use the restroom and use toilet paper
  4. Install a roll of your usual Toilet Paper
  5. Tell the family/room mates to let you know AS SOON AS that roll is empty
  6. Take note of the date and time
  7. Calculate how long that role lasted in time
  8. You can now estimate how long a pack of rolls will last you, approximately
  9. Look at the iPad to get the number of times the restroom was used for that roll
  10. Run the same process a few times, to get an average

We are getting a little closer.  Gathering more data, optimizing based on that data.  There’s still improvements to make.

Version 3

  1. Install a Raspberry Pi above the toilet roll holder
  2. Install a distance IOT sensor into the Pi, aimed at the toilet paper roll
  3. Put on an empty roll and store the distance for an empty roll and log the date and time
  4. Replace the empty roll with a full roll
  5. Store the distance for a full roll
  6. Have the Raspberry Pi monitor the usage of Toilet Paper and log the the distance as it increases
  7. Have the Raspberry Pi notify you when the roll is empty, including how much time it took

Now What???

We are collecting all the data.  We can now do some calculations on how long a Toilet Paper roll lasts, on average.  Then we can say, if we want to hunker down and stay in the house, how long will that be for and then from that, we can calcatulte how much actually toilet paper we will need.

We have also understood our process, our need, and based on that, we were able to make adjustments and improvements to optimize that process so that we are more efficient in getting the data with minimal loss of information.


Now lets forget that this was about Toilet Paper, and instead, look at the business.  You have needs in the business, and you have processes around those needs.  But do you know how those processes work?

Since a lot of people are working remote at this time, this is a great time for you and your teams to really understand what it is you do in order to run your business unit efficiently. There are always improvements you can make, and extra efficiencies you can add.  But you can’t do that, until you know what the needs are, and how you fulfilling those needs right now.

If you want to have a look at the process above, click here :

Enjoying working remote and stay safe.

Leave a Reply