Wiley Metal, led by our Continuous Improvement Manager Scott Meyer, has been conducting numerous 5S events recently with a focus on the 8 wastes. It is part of on-going “Lean Life” training for our team designed to add value to the customer experience.

While many manufacturers put constant effort into making more sales, getting bigger sales and acquiring more clients, the 8 wastes place more emphasis on being more efficient. It recognizes that a $1 saved, whether in labor, material or elsewhere in the process, is a dollar earned. In fact, a dollar saved may be better than a dollar earned because there are significant costs associated with earning that dollar. A dollar saved in eliminating waste is usually worth a dollar. Just as importantly, however, removing these wastes can enhance the customer experience. Let’s take a closer look at the 8 wastes of lean manufacturing, some examples of them and how they can affect the customer experience.

The 8 Wastes

  1. Defects – In manufacturing, most associate defects with poorly made raw materials or errors in production. These can be costly in terms of wasted time and materials, of course, but defects may also result in dissatisfied or even lost clients. We should be mindful of defects in others areas of our processes as well. There can be defects in information, defects in scheduling and other errors in the manufacturing process that negatively impact the customer experience.
  2. Overproduction – This is generally making too much of something too soon. It is often done with the best intentions (“We’ll use it someday,”) but it too frequently can lead to waste. There’s a lot to be said for just in time production. Overproduction leads to a variety of other related issues like wasted assets, the need for extra storage and increased paperwork. It’s worth noting that overproduction can also related to excesses elsewhere like too many unproductive meetings, requiring too much paperwork and even using “reply all” in emails.
  3. Waiting – Wherever you can reduce waiting time, you are eliminating waste. We too often are waiting for materials, people and information. We can find ourselves waiting for approvals, inspections, equipment, parts or repairs. This can be frustrating when large orders are held up due to some relatively small issue that is creating a delay. It is never a good idea to keep a client waiting, no matter what the excuse.
  4. Non-Utilized Talents – Talent and skills are often under-utilized because we don’t give them the authority to make decisions or don’t recognize their creativity or experience. This is evident when we have employees performing tasks far below their skill level. It also manifests itself when we don’t fully train employees or offer opportunities for growth.
  5. Transportation – Any unnecessary movement falls into this category including movement of materials, equipment and even information. Motion takes effort and if that motion can be minimized, so can waste. We tend to view transportation as something that is external but so much of our internal movement is unnecessary and wasteful.
  6. Inventory – Excess inventory beyond the immediate needs of a client are wasteful on many levels. It requires space, management, paperwork and excess movement. Excess inventory is insidious and increases our costs often without our knowledge. It can waste resources and eat into margins.
  7. Movement – In this case, wasted movement is that involving your people when performing their duties. It may be unnecessary steps to retrieve a tool or to get needed material. The 5S principles are exceptional when it comes to better managing waste when it comes to movement.
  8. Extra-Processing – These are any steps taken in the manufacturing of products that do not add value in the perception of the customer. It is important to keep in mind the words “in the perception of the customer”. If you are spending time in processes that they don’t see as adding value, you are creating waste through that unneeded extra-processing.

Managing waste is a bit of a chess game in that often one move creates the need for another. Resolving a waste issue in “waiting” may create the need for more inventory, for example. The decision on solutions should always relate to adding value to the customer experience. It is, after all, called “continuous improvement”.