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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Seven Wastes

by Andrew Nicholson of Nicholson Consultancy

Lean for the Workplace is a way of applying the principles of Lean Manufacturing to non-manufacturing processes. As in Lean Manufacturing, the ultimate aim is to eliminate waste. The following are descriptions and examples of The Seven Wastes.

Overproducing - Producing more than needed or producing too much too soon does not improve efficiency. It consumes resources and leads to other wastes. Examples include keeping paper and electronic copies of documents; producing reports, which are put in a file and never studied.

Waiting - Waiting for people, machines (printer, photocopiers etc), information. It adds no value to the service, and can be most aggravating to employees. Examples include waiting for a signature; waiting for a phone call.

Overprocessing - Having a process that's over complicated. Examples include checking someone else's work; paying by cheque instead of by direct debit, requiring multiple signatures.

Inventory - Excessive stock can take up space, and become a Health and Safety issue. Examples include a cupboard full of stationery materials; files that are no longer used. (How many post-it note pads, pens, etc do you have in your desk drawer?)

Motion - Any motion that is not necessary to the successful completion of an operation/process is waste. Examples include walking to the next room to retrieve print outs from a printer; walking to another room to pass on documents.

Defects - Producing defective work that needs to be redone. Examples include computer data entered incorrectly.

Transport - Transporting something further than is necessary. Examples include files kept in a central filing office; office supplies moved to a temporary location before being put away.

Once you start thinking about it in these terms, you can quickly begin to identify where your processes are "wasteful" or inefficient, which is the first step to making them more streamlined.

Andrew Nicholson is Managing Director of Nicholson Consultancy Limited, specialising in Business Strategy and Lean Thinking. Andrew contributes to the e-zine, “Better Today”, with information for those who are interested in making improvements in their business. If you’re interested in Lean Manufacturing, visit Andrew’s blog, Manufacturing Times.

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