7+1 WASTES Understanding the Cost of Waiting
Waiting – People, Processes or Product
People and machines can wait, the less your customer’s product or service waits the better and more efficient your company will be.
Waste of Waiting
Waiting is one of the 7 wastes (or 7+1) common to manufacturing, service industry or the office and often the one that people most identify with. Everyone is familiar with the mantra “time is money”. What gets interesting in Lean is when we ask what should not be kept waiting.
Working with companies we ask “As a company which of the following do you least want to be waiting; people, machines/equipment or product?” Product being the part, information or service the company delivers. The answer we most frequently get is “People”, our people cost us money we need to keep them working. The reasons I speculate for the answer given is twofold. The first is the financial metrics most companies use. For example our labor rate or cost is $Y and we therefore need Z% utilization to achieve $X margin. The second is personal, few people like to feel under occupied and fewer managers feel as if they are doing an effective job if their staffs are not fully occupied.
When the question is re-asked with the prompt what is most important for the customer and hence the company, the answer is clear. Delivering product is key so not keeping customer product waiting should be the company’s aim. Focus then shifts to how to keep product and service flowing through the company, in turn making better use of the people and resources the company employs.
What happens when companies aim to keep people and machines as busy as possible is that decisions get made that do not help the company or the customer. In wanting to keep machines busy we may run bigger batches causing over production and hence all the challenges and cost of managing excess inventory. In wanting to keep people busy we swap them between tasks, multi-tasking them into inefficiency and then not having them immediately available when they are needed.
What to do – Think Flow
Walk the process; look at our processes from the view point of the product delivered to the customer. Start from customer order and physically walk all the steps to customer delivery. Note where delays and issues such as rework or lots of movement happen. Challenge staff and management to eliminate these issues. Do spaghetti map; very simply take a piece of paper and draw how far the customer produce or service travels around the company. This visually shows how much back and forth happens and where it can be simplified.
Do a simplified value stream map of the product or service. Essentially you are asking what the quickest time we can deliver in is, and what are all the causes of delays that happen in normal operations. Getting everything up on a wall enables problems to be looked at dispassionately and facilitate problem solving instead of blame assigning. These 3 tools will help you improve the flow of work through your company and reduce waiting. Intrinsically all three, people, equipment and product are interconnected. And in waiting they are often waiting for one of the others, people waiting on equipment or product waiting or people. By knowing our aim is to reduce the amount of waiting that happens to product or service we are able to make better decisions about how to employ people and equipment and those times when it is right for people or equipment to be waiting.
The result is that customers get delivered to quicker and the right people and equipment are busy
Q – If people and equipment are kept busy does that mean the company is delivering product or service quicker and more profitably to the customer?
A – Only sometimes, more often people and equipment are kept busy working on orders that are not yet needed. Or worse work is being expanded or slowed down to keep people and equipment busy.