If you are going to understand how to implement lean manufacturing then you need to understand the concept of waste or as the Japanese would call it; muda. One of the most obvious concepts of lean is waste reduction or waste elimination to become more efficient. Any waste is normally categorized as being one of “The Seven Wastes”, although some have increased this to eight or more by including the likes of “wasted talent”. I will talk at greater length about the individual 7 wastes later.
Most people when they begin to learn how to implement lean manufacturing base their learning around the Toyota Production System, as this is where most of our lean manufacturing comes from. How does Toyota define waste; “anything other than the minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts, and working time absolutely essential to production.” Another alternative could be that of Hay; “anything other than the absolute minimum resource of materials, machines and manpower required to add value to the product.”
Seems an OK definition I hear you say, but; what is “absolute minimum required”? The above statements are subjective therefore a weak basis for agreement. One persons bare minimum is too low for some and too high for others. We need to have a better definition if we are going to be successful when we learn how to implement lean manufacturing.
Let us think about “work”, there are two aspects to any work effort that we do, that which adds value and that that does not. What is value? Value could be defined as an explicit customer requirement, if what you are doing is not meeting this explicit customer requirement then it is not adding value to the product or service. Non value adding work costs you time and money and does provide anything that the customer requires.
So what may be a better definition of waste? Something is waste if it “does not meet an explicit customer requirement” and if it cannot be shown to be performed more economically. I think this is a better definition, feel free to argue with me and give a better definition if you like.
So how much waste is out there? I am sure that you spend most of your day working hard, but sit back now and think about the above definition. How much of what you do is meeting an explicit customer requirement? What could be done more efficiently? Studies show that most people spend less than 5% of their time adding value!
Many people would dispute this, but just think about the definition and what you do in the day. Break every action down and think if it is meeting a customer requirement that you are paid for? After all the customer is only paying for the product or service that he wants.
So what are the seven wastes; defects, processing times, inventory, overproduction, waiting time, transportation, and motion. To this list an eight waste is often added, that of untapped human resources or waste of talent. In addition to this in today’s age of environmental awareness we also often add the wastes of energy and by-products.
The following links will take you to each of the relevant wastes;
Waste of Defects
Waste of Waiting Part 1
Waste of Waiting Part 2
Waste of Motion
Waste of Transportation
Waste of over processing
Waste of over production
Waste of Inventory
Waste of talent
Waste of Energy
Waste of By Products
When you learn how to implement lean manufacturing these seven wastes are an important part of that learning. If you want to be able to eliminate waste or go about waste reduction then you need to be able to recognise it for what it is. Each waste deserves detailed descriptions so I will deal with each one as separate postings.