Waste Not!

Waste Not!

'Waste' is not only the stuff that goes in the waste bin .... though we need to look at that. What I want you to do when doing the things you do to deliver your product or a service is to avoid doing things along the way that ....

Waste time or Waste money

It sounds so obvious to suggest that all organisations should eliminate as much waste as they should .... but it is astonishing how many organisations don't attempt it ... often because they do not really understand how much waste they create.

And remember, waste applies to all business in all sectors. While waste on a factory floor may sometimes be obvious, waste in administrative, office processes can be more costly. For example, if a sales proposal is delivered late or containing errors, reputation - and business - can be lost.

Waste in Japanese - where the concept of 'lean' was born - is "muda" and to ensure that all waste is attacked, "muda" is broken down into 'the seven wastes'.... and these often overlap!

Let's take a look at the seven wastes ....

The first waste is ... Overproduction

Making too much or making things before they are needed.

'Just in case' instead of 'just in time' production

The production manager makes a little extra with each batch just in case a customer comes up with a surprise order. Of course, over time, customers get to know this and don't bother to plan their orders ahead - they know they can pick up the phone and get immediate delivery. This is great for customer service but bad for costs!

Overproduction must be stored, secured and managed!

Stopping overproduction - 'turning off the tap' - takes courage because it shows up problems with the production process ... the reasons why the safety net of overproduction is being used.

The next waste is ... Waiting

Having goods waiting to be processed

Do you enjoy queuing?

The manager of the claims office likes to know that every clerical worker has a full in-tray ... it shows they're busy and they are never idle. The problem is that customers wait several days for their claim to work through all the in-boxes and get to the end of the line. This is bad for customer service and not even good for costs ... every claim form is handled many times.

The third waste is ... Transporting

Moving goods between processes

This adds no value (and can cause damage or loss of quality

The layout of the factory means that all components have to be transported to the assembly shop. This means that goods are stored at the start of the assembly line so that the line is never out of one component. So the transporting leads to unnecessary inventory and to waiting.

Next we have the waste caused by .. Unnecessary Inventory

Storing parts and finished goods

Work-in-progress can cover up scheduling problems but it is expensive because it ties up cash and takes up space (which is also expensive)

Worse - in some industries, inventories cost extra - for such things as specialised storage and refrigeration - and, again, everything is handled more often than it should be.

We have the waste of ... Unnecessary or Excess Motion

Unnecessary bending, stretching, lifting, reaching.

Tiring, risky and takes up too much time

The on/off switch for the X-ray machine is on the wall - but just too high to be a comfortable reach for most staff. It was fixed on the wall by a man but most of the operators are female. Every press of that switch takes longer than it should, annoys the operator and causes them discomfort ... and a couple of them have had to take time off with strained muscles.

We have the obvious waste of ... Defects

Throwing things away or repairing them because they aren't right.

So obviously wrong it needs no explanation!

Again, this can overlap with other wastes. Materials stored too long may not go through a process as smoothly as 'fresh' ones - so waiting and unnecessary inventory might cause defects.

Associated costs include quarantining inventory, re-inspecting, rescheduling, and the loss of capacity.

We have the 7th waste of ... Inappropriate Processing

Using expensive tools, equipment and processing when simpler ones would do

Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut!

Remember the apocryphal story about US and Russian astronauts. The Americans spent years - and lots of dollars - designing and building a pen that would work in space. The Russians used pencils.

So, those are the seven wastes we are trying to eliminate ... or minimise.

A follow-up article - Getting Rid of Waste! - will explain how to systematically get rid of these wastes!


Productivity is my 'bag' ... it is what I know about. I am President of the World Confederation of Productivity Science -http://www.wcps.info and Director of the National Productivity Centre in the UK http://www.natprodcentre.com - go to this site for some good free resources and some (paid for but low price) e-learning on productivity. I also edit the International Journal of Productivity & Performance Management. My views on productivity and on learning (which I think are related) are su...

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