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The Eight Wastes That Are Stealing Your Time, Energy, Effort and Money
By Anthony Manos

Over the last several decades, we have learned a lot about building cars efficiently, and profitably, from Toyota. The Toyota Production System (TPS) has come to be known by the term "Lean" around the world. Toyota and other successful manufacturing companies have learned that Lean does not just apply to the value-adding employees on the shop floor. Since 80 percent of waste does not occur on the manufacturing floor, there is a lot of improvement needed in office and support function areas. What Toyota learned to apply to manufacturing in the 1990s has since blossomed to all types of organizations. Many companies in the service industry are adopting Lean techniques with great success. The same principles that are practiced on the shop floor are relevant for service companies, hotels, hospitals, banks, insurance, and construction companies. One of the key elements of Toyota's success is properly identifying problems and solving them. That's where the "8 Wastes" fit in.

Taiichi Ohno, considered by many as the Father of the Toyota Production System, realized that the work and how it was performed held many opportunities for improvement. His famous walks on the shop floor had trained him to look for waste. He decided that these forms of waste could be categorized into what he called the "Seven Deadly Wastes." Of course, as part of continuous improvement there is an additional waste that is very common among Lean practitioners, bringing the total to eight.

The following list will give an explanation of each waste, and how it applies in office or support function areas, as well as in service organizations. See if you have ever encountered things like this.

Overproduction - making more, earlier, or faster than the next process needs it

  • Does accounting print out 20 copies of a report that only three people really look at?
  • Has a boss ever asked on Monday for a report to be completed by Wednesday and she really didn't need it until Friday?
  • Are all-staff meetings held, or emails sent, when the information only pertains to a few people?

Motion - any movement that does not add value to your product or service

  • Walking back and forth to the printer that's located out in the hallway?
  • Trying to bend, reach, or grab binders or folders from your chair?
  • Walking to get files?

Inventory - anything in excess of one-piece flow

  • Have twelve projects piled up on your desk because your boss can't decide the priority ("They're all important!")?
  • Have too many items or materials around your work area, like prototypes in an engineering department?
  • Have banks of file cabinets storing files that no one has looked at in years right in the middle of your office space?

Transportation - moving people, materials and information around the organization

  • Using pneumatic tubes to move documents from one location to another (they never break down do they)?
  • People having to walk between buildings to meet with others on their project?
  • Using expediting messenger services to move paperwork?

Waiting - waiting for man, machine, materials, information, etc.

  • Waiting for a call back from a client, or waiting for a response to an email?
  • Waiting for approvals?
  • Waiting at the copier because someone is printing out 50 copies of a 70-page report?

Under-Utilized People - not tapping into people's education, skills, experience, knowledge, creativity, etc. (This is the additional waste mentioned above)

  • Learning that one of your employees is a volunteer leader in an outside organization?
  • Not listening to ideas or suggestions from the value-adders on how to make improvements?
  • Focusing on the 'hands' and not the 'head'?

Defects - anything that needs to be scrapped, adjusted, reworked, etc.

  • You receive a blue print or drawing that has obvious errors on it?
  • You aren't provided with the complete information or accurate information?
  • You just fix things yourself instead of bringing it up with the person or group that caused the defect?

Over-processing - additional effort that adds no value from the customer's viewpoint

  • Have multiple sign-offs when not needed?
  • Creating additional paperwork or additional signatures to help solve a problem?
  • Performing checks, double checks, triple checks?

If you have ever seen anything like this, you have observed waste. So the key is to learn how to identify waste so that we can reduce or eliminate it. How do you go about fixing these problems? There are many tools and techniques used in the Lean world to make this happen. More importantly, however, is that people in your organization become true Lean thinkers.

If you can't see the waste, you can't get rid of it. A quick, simple method to train people to recognize waste is to perform "Waste Walks." In a small group, walk with purpose, through an area noting waste and possible solutions. This will help promote discussion and a better understanding of your workplace. Never settle for the "we have to do it this way" answer. Be open-minded and realize that there is always room for improvement.

A catalyst with
Profero, Inc., Tony provides professional consulting services to organizations focusing on implementing Lean Enterprise. Tony is trained and certified by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), U.S. Department of Commerce, in all elements of Lean. Relying on his diverse knowledge of business and creative techniques and applications, he is able to shape the Lean Tools of manufacturing into implementation processes for professional service organizations. He assists clients of all types and sizes in the implementation of Lean Enterprise.


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