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Quality Scan: Waste Remains the Enemy


When I described 10 forms of waste in the Quality Scan department of Manufacturing Engineering magazine in April 2001, not many people realized the importance of the three wastes I added to the seven originally defined in the Toyota Production system; 8. Workforce underutilization, 9. Improper use of computers, 10. Working to the wrong metrics.


The original seven Wastes as defined by Toyota are:

  1. Overproducing.
  2. Wasting time waiting.
  3. Transporting.
  4. Over-processing.
  5. Excess Inventory (WIP).
  6. Excess motion of workers, including lack of ergonomics.
  7. Scrap and rework.

When the co-inventor of the Toyota Production System, Taiichi Ohno, devised the "Seven Wastes" little did he know that there would evolve additional wastes that would prove to be just as damaging.

More and more emphasis is being placed on establishing a "Lean" system, a system that eliminates waste within operations. However, just addressing the original seven Wastes leaves many opportunities for substantially greater savings and efficiency improvements.There are a plethora of waste-reduction opportunities in areas that were not part of the original seven wastes.

From the 1970s until now, we have progressed dramatically. We have added new tools such as the computer, crosstraining, and knowing what really needs to be tracked; we have learned how to work smarter, not harder.

Along with the new management concepts and tools come the tag-along areas of waste, or Muda, as the Japanese call it. When underutilization of our workforce is examined, we still do not see decision making being done at the lowest level in an organization. We still use the tribalknowledge concept that certain 'experts' must make decisions, rather than training those closest to the problem to solve problems. We have a layer of management that controls the decision making, but seems to do so by remote control. The first concept of the Toyota Production System, Genchi Genbutsu Shugi, tells us that the hands-on experienced workers are the backbone of any organization. It should be they who make the decisions pertaining to their expertise on the job. The big waste here is having an extra layer of management make decisions that could and should be made by those closest to the situation.

Another big waste involving underutilization of workers is that 95% of most American companies do not have a realistic Kaizen Suggestion Program. At Toyota and other Japanese-managed companies, the workers submit from 20 to 50 suggestions per person per year, most of which are acted upon. These shop-floor, operator-inspired improvements add up to very significant numbers, hence big potential cost savings. Continuous improvement comes from building on each new idea to refine a process and improve it, to continually get smarter, learning from past failures, and experimenting with out-of-the-box proposals. Kaizen suggestions create an atmosphere conducive to change. People who coauthor change enthusiastically support it, and want to see it implemented.

Working to the wrong metrics creates waste by not combining continuous improvement metrics into the daily production arena. Making only what is paid for by the customer minimizes cash tied up in WIP. Our total throughput time is one of the most important metrics that, unfortunately, is not important to many organizations. A tremendous target for cost reductions lies in being able to minimize activities that add no value to the finished product but add time and cost. What metric do we use to track this waste?

For twenty or so years, computers have been a necessity in the workplace. There has been an attempt to use the computer more efficiently in just about every facet of a business.We probably could not operate today's businesses without computers.

But along with all the good that computers have brought to us, they also bring enormous waste. Computer surfing today is what reading the newspaper or magazine was 20 years ago. Remember those long visits to the john, to catch up on sports scores? Or the trips to the water cooler?

How were such obvious wastes controlled then? The same way misuse of the computer has to be controlled today; allow just the right amount of freedom, not to stifle the workforce, but with the expectation that self-policing may not suffice to limit the new source of waste.


This article was first published in the May 2007 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 5/1/2007

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