Taiichi Ohno, a major contributor to the Toyota Production System, identified seven wastes that can exist in processes and Jeffery Liker, a professor at the University of Michigan, added an eighth. When the eight wastes are reduced or removed costs will be dramatically reduced, quality will be improved, process cycle time will be reduced, and most importantly internal and external customer satisfaction will be increased.

As each of the wastes is defined, look for examples in your own organization.

Waiting – The item/ work in the process has stopped.
Examples include: Machine downtime, bottlenecked operations, equipment changeover, system downtime, system response time, approvals from others, information from customers.

Defects – Any form of scrap, mistakes, errors, or correction, resulting from the work not being done correctly the first time.
Examples include: Production of defective parts, scrap, waste, data input errors, design errors, engineering change orders, invoice errors.

Extra Processing – Having to do anything more than is needed.
Examples include: Taking unneeded steps to process parts, inefficient processing due to poor tool and product design, re-entering data, extra copies, unnecessary or excessive reports.

Inventory – Any supply that is in excess, any form of batch processing. Producing more than customer demand.
Examples include: Any excess inventory, batch processing, office supplies, sales literature, batch processing transactions.

Excessive Motion – Movement of people.
Examples include: Reaching for, looking for, or stacking parts, tools, walking to/from copier, central filing, fax machine, other offices.

Transportation – Movement of work or paperwork from one step to the next step in the process. Examples include: Movement of materials, parts, or finished goods into and out of storage, movement of documents from site to site, office to office.

Underutilized people – People’s creativity, ideas, and abilities are not fully tapped.
Examples include: Losing ideas, skills, and improvements by not listening to employees, limited employee authority and responsibility for basic tasks, management command and control.

Overproducing – Producing more, sooner, or faster than is required by the next person. Examples include: Inventory piling up at a slower downstream step, printing paperwork before it is really needed, purchasing items before they are needed, processing paperwork before the next person is ready for it.

The Toyota Production System or Lean is a combination of creating flow and eliminating waste. As you become aware of the amount of waste in your process, improvement opportunities abound.

How to Find Wastes
The “standing in a circle” exercise was used by Taiichi Ohno. This is part of the philosophy of “genchi genbutsu” which means “go and see” at the actual place of work. During this exercise, a person is directed to stand and observe an operation carefully, and to identify the waste within the operation, and the conditions that cause the waste to exist. Individuals are often left standing for eight hours or more before the “sensei” is satisfied that they have seriously seen the waste. During the circle exercise it is best to simply acknowledge that the waste exists, without the need to explain it or try to figure out how to “fix” it. If the exercise is taken seriously, the amount of waste observed can be overwhelming. A common reaction is to immediately seek out solutions to remedy the situation. However, one must first thoroughly develop an understanding of the situation prior to beginning corrective action. Standing in a circle for many hours will allow a thorough understanding, which is necessary before any true countermeasures can be identified.

When you take the time to observe wastes and then work diligently to implement waste reduction countermeasures, the subsequent reductions in operating costs will flow……right to the bottom line on your income statement.

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