Understanding the Seven forms of Waste
If you are looking into implementing lean six sigma principles, the first thing you will need to do is to look at the seven forms of waste. Having a good understanding of what each of them are, and how they can be addressed in your facility, will help to ensure you are able to operate more efficiently.
When companies don’t take the time to really understand these seven forms of waste, they will end up losing focus over time. In the end, this can leave a facility in the same state it was in before, or sometimes even worse. With this in mind, take a moment to read about each of the seven forms of waste that are identified in the lean six sigma methodology.
Reviewing the Seven forms of Waste
When a facility produces too much of a product, it is a form of waste. Even if the product does eventually sell, it causes certain types of waste. For example, if you have too much of a product, it needs to be stored in a warehouse, which is wasting space. In addition, if the product isn’t selling well, you may have to sell it at a discount, which reduces profits.
2. Excess Motion
Motion is necessary for the creation of products, but all too often things are moved unnecessarily, which is wasteful. This can happen when machines are not positioned efficiently so an item has to be transported long distances to get where it is gone. Too often, the item then has to come back the other way to finish a process.
Minimizing excess motion is a great way to reduce waste, since it won’t require resources to complete that motion. Another example of this is if someone is taking an inefficient route to where they need to go. Some facilities have even used colored floor marking tape (which can be purchased here) to identify paths based on which product is being moved. The product simply follows the path along through the process so everyone knows the most efficient way to get to the next step.
Another of the seven forms of waste is waiting. This can happen when work is not properly planned, so people working on one machine have to wait around for work from a previous station. Working with the work schedules of employees, you can often minimize the waiting to eliminate this type of waste.
People standing around doing nothing is just one form of waiting, however. If a machine has to wait for additional parts or resources, that is also wasteful. This is why proper inventory control is an important way to reduce waiting.
4. Unnecessary Processing
Many companies make improvements to products just for the sake of improving them. If customers don’t want or need the improvement, than this is a type of waste. When customers don’t demand a change, they won’t be willing to pay for it.
If you find that a specific feature of a product is not something that your customers want, than it should be eliminated to avoid unnecessary processing.
When items are moved around unnecessarily, it is wasteful. For example, some facilities will store a product in a warehouse for some time. If it sits for too long, they may move it to another warehouse or another location within the warehouse. This transportation does not provide any value, and actually wastes the resources of the people and machines that have to move it.
In addition, whenever there is transportation occurring, there is a risk of damaging the products. If an item is dropped, it will have to be fixed or even remade. This is, of course, a significant waste.
6. Excess Inventory
Having excess inventory is one of the more common types of waste. This doesn’t just mean too many finished products, however, if you are storing a large amount of parts that are used for the creation of a product, that is also wasteful.
Ordering only what is needed for a specific order will help to ensure none of them go to waste. Having a system in place that will order more of each item when it is needed, and in a way that will ensure it shows up as close to the point where it is required as possible, will help to reduce inventory.
Whenever a product has a problem, it is very wasteful. Defective parts or products need to go back through to either be repaired or disposed of. Finding defects as soon as possible and identifying root causes of the problem so that it doesn’t happen again is essential to a lean workplace.
Even if it takes some time and resources to identify the causes of defects, it will be well worth the effort in the end. Over time, as the facility sees fewer and fewer defects it will be clear just how important eliminating this type of waste really is.
Always Review for Waste
Understanding the seven forms of waste in a lean facility is really just the beginning of an ongoing process. You need to make sure you are always on the lookout for any of these types of waste in the facility, and then put in the effort to have them eliminated.
At first, most facilities are able to find a lot of different wasteful things and make fast improvements. Over time, however, they can become more difficult to identify and smaller in nature. This is a good sign that the facility is beginning to operate more efficiently with less and less waste.