It’s easy to spot waste at the park or at the beach but how do you identify it in your business? I’m not talking about the overflowing garbage bin in the office, I’m talking about the waste that is slowing you down, creating bottlenecks and employee frustration.
In Lean Six Sigma, we use various tools to identify waste in order to become more efficient. Lean Six Sigma utilizes a team approach by empowering employees with practical problem solving skills so that they can identify and remove friction (waste). But in order to use the tools, we have to be able to identify them.
8 Wastes of Lean Six Sigma
Here are the 8 types of waste that have been identified by Lean Six Sigma that can kill your productivity. When spelled out, it equals DOWNTIME.
Defects: Anything that requires additional time, resources or money to fix. It could be having to send your installer back to fix a bad cable or eating margin on a project because the sales person made a mistake on the original quote and the client doesn’t want to pay for it.
Overproduction: Anytime an employee is blindly doing their job without realizing if the next person in line is ready or even needs what they are doing. This produces bottlenecks in the company.
Waiting: Whenever workflow has stopped, it causes others to have to wait. It could be because something in the process broke down, you could be waiting on an approval, materials or you ran out of something. Poor communication is often a contributor to this form of waste.
Not utilizing talent: Not effectively using your employees’ talents is a big waste. Equally harmful is using the wrong people for the wrong tasks. It’s common in a lot of companies to have multiple people doing the same thing or having the wrong person doing the task. Having the right employees assigned to the right tasks can help remove this form of waste.
Transportation: In the manufacturing industry this relates to physically moving parts around but in the custom installation business, it’s employees sending emails with information back and forth. A lot of times, employees get caught up in the email “tennis match” which creates a lot of waste because information is being transported back and forth. In most cases, the more times a reply is sent, the actual quality of information deteriorates, however the waste keeps piling up.
Inventory excess: Having too much inventory when it’s not needed is an obvious waste however sometimes for integrators it’s building out racks too early when the job isn’t ready for them.
Motion: Any extra movement by employees that doesn’t add value to the product, service or process. This could be a messy technician van, messy job site, and/or lack of standards (everyone does pre-wire differently).
Excess processing: This happens when you have multiple versions of the same task happening.
It’s impossible to have a frictionless process in any business. Issues are going to arise that are out of your control but if you are able to identify waste quickly in order to remove it and redesign your process to deal with it, you can become more efficient overall which adds to your bottom line.
Some of the biggest causes of waste are poor communication, quality control, lack of training and lack of a well defined process. All of these things are easily fixed once you are able to identify them.