Friday, May 23, 2014

From Pinpoint to Elimination: Removing Waste From Your Processes

In a previous entry, Can Your Team Pinpoint Value-Added?, we identified some places that waste or non-value added steps can hide in your company’s processes. Today, we’d like to follow up on that. I mean, now that you know where to look, how do you actually identify the correct steps to eliminate? How, when you are so close to the process, do you decide which ones you need and which ones you don’t? 

Imagine yourself as the product or service your customers' value. Trace the design, order and physical product from launch back to original concept, from delivery back to the sale and from finished product back to raw materials. Include distances, stops and their duration, and the number of functions handling the product or its components. Basically, go through your operation backwards . . . it will force you to think differently. Ask these questions.


  • Do your products provide the value sought by the customer?
  • Are the current process steps required to design, order and produce your products, mostly creating value?
  • Does the design, order and/or product flow continuously through the necessary activities to reach your customer?
  • Can your customer get just what they want, when they want it without your company holding a mountain of finished goods, "just in case?"
  • Are your value stream's performance steadily improving?
  • Does your lead time meet your customers' expectations?
Don’t be afraid to go to the shop floor, the engineering area, the production control & order management department. Everywhere you go, evaluate your processes, and look for these opportunities: long lead times, frequent set-ups, long set-ups, significant work-in-progress dollars, critical work centers, flow bottlenecks, capacity constraints, large inventories, competitive products, delays waiting for approvals, and repetitive motion.

When you emphasize the value added, your company prospers quickly. If you cannot determine what is value added, all your other efforts simply don’t matter. The challenge is not only understanding what your customer’s value, but evaluating each person and process in the organization and associating those activities with what brings value to the customer. 

Lean manufacturing as a form of continuous improvement isn't a destination, but rather a journey; an ongoing process. The first step to getting lean is to learn how much of what you do is value added. Learn as much as you can about lean manufacturing through MMTC’s training, other companies and existing literature. There are some great books out there on lean implementation and establishing a lean culture, both on the shop floor and in the office. The MMTC’s staff of experts are available with the technical knowledge and experience to help you get started. 

Suggested Title: Lean Reading List
Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation 2nd Edition by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy 2nd Edition by Masaaki Imai
Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate MUDA by Mike Rother and John Shook
The Goal: The Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt
Creating a Lean Culture: Tools to Sustain Lean Conversions 2nd Edition by David Mann
The Lean Office: Collected Practices and Cases (Insights on Implementation) put out by Productivity Press

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.


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