There’s no such thing as “good waste.” In fact, waste by its very nature is negative. It represents a lack of optimization and misuse of resources. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to spot or correct instances of waste. The key is determining potential results, then measuring actual ones. You’ll find waste within the discrepancy.
If you follow a lean manufacturing approach, you already have a leg up on identifying waste thanks to DOWNTIME. This acronym is not only a representation of the ultimate waste — it also outlines the eight common forms of waste that are present within inefficient factory operations:
- Defects — This is waste focused primarily on the final result of operations. Specifically, it encompasses products that don’t meet internal specifications or customer standards. It’s a half-filled bottle of cola on its way to packaging before it’s caught.
- Overproduction — Overproducing is a form of plentiful waste. You make more than you need and are unable to make use of the extra, which ultimately consumes time and resources. It’s accidentally making 500 units when the order was only for 50.
- Waiting — Inefficient practices lead to waiting. Waiting is a waste of time, which ultimately means wasted manpower. It’s employees having to stand around for 30 minutes between changeovers with nothing to do while they wait.
- Non-utilized talent — Talent waste is a detriment to any organization. If you have a well-qualified worker saddled with mindless tasks, you’re not utilizing their skills to the fullest benefit. It’s a master mechanic relegated to performing basic oil changes.
- Transportation — This is poor logistics, plain and simple. An inefficient supply chain leads to transportation waste: driving extra mileage to transport unnecessary goods to a place they’re not needed. It’s shuffling goods between warehouses without a plan.
- Inventorying — Inventory waste takes multiple forms. Too much inventory wastes money by tying it up in tangible products; too little inventory leads to wasted time and extra costs. This is stocking 75 replacement parts when you really only use 25 routinely.
- Motion — Motion waste is logistical waste on a smaller scale. It’s all the minutes and energy wasted by having an inefficient layout. It’s having your lab testing equipment located on a different floor from where your samples are taken.
- Extra processing — Extra processing occurs when there are unnecessary or overcomplicated steps in the process. This is a waste of time and energy. This is the equivalent of getting from A to B in 5 steps, instead of 2.
There’s a reason DOWNTIME is the acronym of choice for these eight wastes — because it represents the single biggest instance of waste within the factory environment.
Being cognizant of these eight core wastes isn’t enough. Manufacturers also need to address them. Following a lean approach is the best start, but even within this framework there’s potential for waste to creep into the system. To ensure it doesn’t, manufacturers should also look into concepts such as precision manufacturing and other programs that emphasize investment in quality control and better technologies.
Recognizing DOWNTIME variables and addressing them via actionable strategies will mitigate wasteful costs across the spectrum of operations. But to keep those costs low or nonexistent, manufacturers will need a continuum of improvement. This is why taking a lean approach is a smart idea.