The Lean Approach…a War on Waste


Many processes are mostly waste? No way…Way…

All processes have waste. A process can have huge amounts of waste and still be functioning in spite of itself. Waste will never be eliminated from a process. The goal is to eliminate as much waste as possible. Some processes have steps that are complete waste, but are still required. For example, some activities in a process may be required by regulation, organizational policies etc. but do not add any value as defined by the customer. As a government organization, we all experience this kind of waste. Remember, to be considered value-added, your customer must be willing to pay for it. Is the customer willing accept a delay or additional cost for product or service?

Do you know who your customers are? Do you know what value added means to them?

At first take, a discussion of waste sounds like a bunch of manufacturing mumbo jumbo give-me-a-break buzz words. That’s somewhat true. But there is a method to the madness. There can be big time waste in service. But, there are also big time opportunities to reduce waste. Finding ways to eliminate waste can save significant time and money, and enable us to focus our efforts on activities that do add value. This is what Lean is all about.

When you say waste, what do you mean?

There are 7(+1) types of waste. They are, transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, overprocessing, defects, + underutilized people. To remember the types of waste, think TIM WOOD (+U)

Here are some examples of waste.

Transportation: Travelling from the work site to get tools from the equipment warehouse. Travelling to a location when the work could have been done virtually.

Inventory: Maintaining lots of most anything that is not currently needed. Some examples of inventory might include Publications, lumber, vehicles or airplanes.

Motion: May include unnecessary movement that causes repetitive stress, turning, twisting, manual stapling lots of documents etc.

Waiting: Some examples might be waiting on some activity or product, visitors waiting for a Ranger or standing in line to see an exhibit.

Overproduction: Producing publications that end up sitting on a shelf. Building too much of something which will not be needed until sometime in the future or may not be used at all. Working overtime preparing piles of reports before the boss (customer) is ready to read them.
Over production can result in pushing batches of stuff rather letting the customer pull the stuff when they are ready for it. You can see how over-production can lead to inventory.

Overprocessing: For example, multiple reviews of a document. Hmmm…I bet we have all experienced this type of waste.

Defects: Work product not meeting customer requirements, wrong product, errors in documents, cutting lumber to the wrong length. Defects lead to re-work which creates additional opportunities for mistakes.

Underutilized people: One of the worst kind of waste. Examples include not listening to recommendations from the people who do the work. Having an employee who is working at a low level when he/she has the capability and desire to work on higher level projects. We don’t want to have a journeyman carpenter assigned to sweep floors.

In my next installment, we will look at the tenets of Lean and ways to identify and reduce waste in a process. In the meantime, if I can provide more information or help you with defining your processes, drop me a line at (907-644-3337) or john_bryant@nps.gov.

Think Lean…

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