Waste: the Source of all Problems

The first reaction after reading the title of the article is to think, “Of course, everyone knows that! “. Still, you will be surprised to find that while everyone agrees that wasting is not a good business strategy, the waste still surrounds all our activities. Probably we will never be able to eliminate it completely, but there are ways to reduce it effectively and continuously. 

Let’s assume that the customer wants to buy a product or service that meets their expectations. At first, it would be up to us to understand his expectations and, once we have understood them correctly, to produce what the customer wants as much in quantity as in time. 

Up to this point and while the challenge is significant, it can get even more complicated if we are to achieve this success by using the minimum amount of resources required to add to our product what the customer wants: value. Any use of resources that does not add value to our product is a loss. 

It can be concluded that waste is anything that exceeds the minimum amount of material, equipment, space and time required to add value to the product. Since all waste is a waste, it is in our interest to fight it. Indeed, in an increasingly competitive market, improving our processes to eliminate waste is a matter of survival. We have no choice but to strive for excellence! 

The idea of eliminating waste to become more competitive is not new. Indeed, it was thought in the 1950s by Kiichiro Toyoda, president of Toyota, to catch up with the giants of the North American automotive industry having, at that time, a productivity 10 times higher than that of Japanese. 

From this idea, MM. Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo, both industrial engineers of the company, have developed waste elimination techniques, which, over the years, have formed the basis of a whole management philosophy aimed at the structured elimination of waste (MUDA). in Japanese) while producing what the customer wanted, in the quantity ordered and exactly when he wanted it. The rest is part of the story; Toyota has become the most profitable automotive company in the world. 

In this pursuit of waste, Toyota has identified the seven wastes (Mudas) to eliminate to move towards quality and excellence: 

Waste from overproduction 

  • Produce required products later to occupy machines or employees;
  • Produce more than necessary “just in case”;
  • Produce large lots to “cushion the race time”.

Waste from waiting times 

  • A coin waiting for its turn on a tablet, in a cart, on the floor,etc.;
  • An employee who is waiting for materials, information, a person, an authorization, an inspection.

Waste caused by transport 

  • This source of waste includes all transport and handling that does not add value to the product but increases costs. One can name thereturns, the double or triple handling, the displacement of the articles during manufacture (WIP). Not all transports can be eliminated, but care must be taken to minimize them.

Waste in manufacturing processes 

  • The ranges and procedures not kept up to date leave useless operations in the process;
  • Verbal indications, redundant operations,over quality,etc.; 
  • This type of waste materializes in the form of prolonged and / or unnecessary production steps.

Wastage due to unnecessary inventories 

  • Inventory is a cushion to hide inefficiencies. It increases costs without adding value to the product;
  • Inventory occupies space (which has a cost) and represents capital tied up, which impacts the company’s overall return on investment.

Wastage due to unnecessary movements 

  • This source of waste consists of all movements of operators that do not contribute directly to adding value to the product;
  • Useless movements include moving to find what is missing, late, to ask for additional information;
  • Operations that require complicated manipulations, turning, bending, executing unnecessary extensions, etc.
  1. Waste due to defective parts
  • Inspections, sorting, retouching, recovery, rejects, overtime, additional production capacity required.

Now that you know the sources of waste around you, fight them, always keep them in mind. Remember that the customer is willing to pay only for activities that add value to their eyes.