In the last episode I explained that the heart of lean manufacturing is in eliminating waste, and I also introduced the seven wastes of lean. In this episode I want to take some time to illustrate these wastes in a few examples. If you’re already well-versed with the seven wastes, this will be a bit redundant. But if you’re still new to the concept of waste, I’m going to explain how they work in real-life examples. I highly recommend you also visit leansmarts.com or visit my YouTube channel for more examples of wastes. Seeing them in videos is useful and will help sharpen your powers of observation. Remember, one of our goals as lean practitioners is to learn how to see waste in the first place!
Also check out the show notes for this episode with some handy recommendations. Just go to www.leansmarts.com/003.
Okay, so what I’m going to do is give you three examples. One is a personal experience of the wastes of lean at home in my kitchen. The next is an example of a typical batch-production manufacturer. And the last is an office example in an engineering office.
At Home Example
Earlier this year my wife and I moved across country to a new state and settled temporarily into an apartment. We sold a lot of things before we left, and some things we left in boxes. Of the many things we either sold or kept in storage was our holder for our kitchen knifes. We didn’t have a place for our nice kitchen knives. Our simple solution was placing them piled on top of each other in the corner of our kitchen counter. I know… I know… doesn’t sound very safe or very lean. But come-on, you know we all have things like this going on all the time at home or at work. This is just one of our own.
Here’s some of the problems we encountered using the knives in he kitchen. It was sometimes time consuming to find the correct knife, because they were left in a big pile. We wasted motion looking for the knife. The knives were also more prone to becoming dull since they weren’t properly stored. A dull knife required sharpening, which is a form of over processing. Sometimes we had to use a dull knife that hadn’t been sharpened yet. This resulted in difficulty preparing food and over processing. It also led to occasional defects and increased the risk of a safety incident. It took more time to prepare food, which caused delays and the waste of waiting. I realized at one point that we had many more steak knives than necessary. This waste of inventory made the pile of knives in the corner larger than necessary, and made it harder to find what was needed. If we had fewer steak knives it could alleviate some of our problems.
I’ll also give you a manufacturing example from a generic manufacturer doing batch production. Let’s say they make 100 products at a time, and the production process is performed in three steps: A, B, and C. Here’s what happens in real life. The first operator works on a batch of 100 products and completes step A. Then the product is put into a bin. Handling 100 product and placing them into a bin is the waste of motion. It’s not value-added. They then sit there for a few hours, or maybe until the next day. That’s the waste of waiting. If it’s going to wait a long time, someone might move the bin and put it on the shelf. That’s the waste of transportation. When it is time to start step B, an operator goes looking for the bin on the shelf, but its hard to find. He spends time walking around and looking for the bin, which is more wasted motion. There’s so many other bins of product waiting to be worked on that it takes some time to find the right one. That’s due to the wastes of over production and inventory. Finally, the operator finds the bin and takes it to station B to continue manufacturing. Of course there’s wasted transportation to get it there, and then additional wasted motion to handle all 100 pieces of product again–but maybe you’re catching on now and already know that. The operator begins working on the product but identifies a problem. There was a flaw in the materials used in step A, and there’s also some workmanship problems. That’s the waste of defects. At this point the operator stops working on the batch of 100 products. He gets a manager and an engineer. They discuss what happened and how to fix it. Meanwhile, the product is sitting there at station B waiting–more waste. Finally, there’s a way to move forward and rework all 100 pieces. The operator gets to work fixing the problems. Reworking the defects is time consuming and it has to be performed for all 100 pieces. That’s the waste of over processing. Although it could be possible to complete one product in 5 minutes from start to finish, this batch of 100 will take over a week to get through the wasteful production system.
Lastly, I’ll give you an office example. Let’s say there’s an engineer working in an engineering design office and it’s their job to prepare quotes and proposals for customers. One of the engineer’s deliverables is a CAD drawing. But there’s a few problems. For one, the company’s products are very well standardized. When a new customer makes a request, the engineer digs through the database of old quotes and drawings to find something similar. Then the drawing is copied, pasted, and tweaked to match the customer’s specifications. Well, digging through the database to find a close match is wasted motion. That could take minutes or hours depending on what it is, with lots of server searching and many mouse clicks. Tweaking the design to delete, modify, and add features is a form of over processing. And since the drawing is copied from an old design, all this modification puts the drawing at risk for having errors and defects in it. Something could be overlooked. There is such a large inventory of previous designs that searching through all of it takes time. Since the company hasn’t standardized its products, it essentially has as many standards as it has customers. Over production like that is consuming the engineering department with tons of wasted time. Meanwhile, the customer is waiting and it’s not uncommon for the engineering office to lose the opportunity to bid simply because of the long lead time in generating a quote and proposal. I know I said this would be an office example, but if we were to look at the consequences for manufacturing, we’d see a ton of over processing and rework simply because every customer order is unstandard and different from another. Every job is completed differently and there’s a ton of tribal knowledge.
Okay, that’s it for today’s episode! I hope those three examples help illustrate what the seven wastes are and how they affect our ability to create value. I also hope you’re beginning to see how waste is responsible for interrupting the flow of value, and that flow is what we’re trying to achieve. In the episodes to come I’ll give you even more tools for perceiving waste and improving the flow of value.