One way to think about waste

LEAN identifies eight wastes – Overproduction, Unnecessary processing, Transportation, Wasted Motion & Resources (sometimes called intellectual waste), Time (Waiting), Excess Inventory, and Defects.  The problem is, despite having identified the potential wastes people often have problem understanding if what they are looking at is truly waste.

Here’s how I like to think about it.  Imagine two identical (truly identical, the end product is exactly the same) products sitting on a shelf next to each other.  One is yours; the other your competitors.  Now, imagine you had to put one of those star-bursts on your packaging… you know, the ones that say “New & Improved!”  But instead of “new” you have to put your process step in the star-burst.  Would the content be enough to make customers choose your product over the competitors.

Here’s some of your taglines you’d have to write:

  • Our employees walked 1000 feet further than the competition to build this!
  • We have a really long conveyor belt!
  • Reworked extensively due to defects, but it’s just a good now!
  • Sat around for two weeks before being shipped to the store!
  • Packaged by a rocket scientist!

The one that usually trips people up is the waste of defects.  Sure, customers don’t want defective products, but if you got to a good product by inspecting it vs. building it right do you think that’s a selling point for your customer?  Would your customers be grabbing for that product over your competitor’s product if these were your taglines?  I think not.

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