Why is the 8th waste one of the most important in Lean?

Today we are pleased to welcome a thought provoking guest post from Lean Manufacturing expert Giles Johnston of Smartspeed Consulting

One of the central pillars of the lean movement is the idea of waste in a business. Not the rubbish that we find in bins kind of waste, but the types of activity that we undertake as part of our jobs that doesn’t really benefit the end customer. You probably recall these types of waste from posters in your business, or from courses that you have been on, they are:

  • Defects
  • Overproduction
  • Transportation
  • Waiting
  • Inventory
  • Motions
  • Processes

The ‘7 wastes’ is a simple way to communicate the idea of removing the waste within a business and it helps you to identify specific areas for improvement. However, as Lean is a people centric approach to business improvement, there is another waste not on the above list. The 8th waste is known as ‘untapped human potential’ and means that the people who work in your business know all kinds of things that could improve the business, but aren’t telling you. They will see things differently to you. They will see things that you won’t. You need to take advantage of this.

Getting engagement with any kind of change programme is usually a challenge for most businesses, but one of the simplest ways to do this with Lean is go ‘waste walking’. It’s a bit like playing the childhood game of eye spy, with the list above as the items you are looking for. Taking your team’s observations, adding in a little bit of problem solving, and (hey presto!) you have an improvement plan ready to execute.

So if you’d like to improve productivity and on time delivery performance (without the usual hassles), try using all the brainpower in your team to help you strip out the unnecessary lead time and complexity from your processes. It’s a great way to make the improvements you seek.

Go for a walk with your team and get your improvement projects back on track!

Giles Johnston

Author, Consultant and Chartered Engineer

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