Everyday Lean…Chasing Waste

Everyday  Lean…Chasing Waste

By: Ronette Kersting

Lean Six Sigma provides numerous resources and tools to enable everyone to Act Decisively, Actively Listen and Take the Customer’s View. These tools can be used to better understand the problem or understand the customers’ needs. Lean Six Sigma becomes encoded by using the Lean Six Sigma methodology and tools in everyday tasks. “Chasing Waste” is training our brain to help our “eyes” see things that aren’t readily apparent.  Waste is a failure to receive the maximum value from a resource.  Waste may include time, talent, opportunity, and/or energy.


8 Wastes of Lean:

  1. Defects/Mistakes

The outcome that fails to meet customer requirements.  The defect may occur at a time of creation or damage due to idle inventory.  The defect may involve rework/scrap to perform the “fix” thus additional time, resources, and energy to make the correction.  Some everyday examples include:

  • Errors when preparing food in a restaurant
  • Products shipped or delivered to the wrong address
  • Software glitches that require reprograming
  • Misdiagnoses in healthcare that lead to unnecessary tests or treatment


  1. waiting

To remain idle or unproductive (people, material, and/or equipment) until an event occurs.  This often occurs because the next step in the process is not ready (ie – waiting in line at a store) or they wait because they do not have the inputs necessary to act.  These situations could include poor process flow, uneven scheduling of work, long or unnecessary meetings.  Some examples include:

  • Airplanes waiting for a gate to become available
  • Healthcare patients waiting for test results
  • Roofers waiting for shingles to be delivered
  • Cancer patients waiting for treatment to be approved by insurance


  1. Transportation

Not all transportation is waste, but the unnecessary movement of people, products, materials, or other items adds expense without adding customer value.  This can involve fork trucks, people, conveyors, or other vehicles.  Some examples of the waste of transportation include:

  • Moving patients from one room to the next in a hospital
  • Handling parts multiple times within a distribution center prior to storage
  • Sending unsold products from the store back to the warehouse
  • Moving equipment back and forth between construction sites repetitively


  1. motion

Movement by people is deemed unnecessary.  This may involve poor workplace ergonomics or inefficient processes.  Here are some examples:

  • Workers searching for missing tools or parts
  • Printers or other equipment not conveniently located
  • Online applications that require 25 clicks to submit a simple request
  • Inadequately stocked exam rooms


  1. overproduction

Producing a product more than requested demand or intended consumption.  This can result in excess inventory and storage thus requiring unnecessary/extra transportation of large supplies of material.  Some examples include:

  • Too many meetings or the wrong people in the meetings
  • Rental car locations with more cars than necessary
  • Schools with more desks/space than the community needs


  1. inventory

Excess amounts of material.  This could include raw, work-in-progress, or the finished material.  Inventory may require extra transportation to ensure the material does not interfere with processes.  Wasted resources could also include money, space, and/or time.  The waste of inventory can be found in several areas including,

  • Unused groceries resulting in spoilage
  • Too much equipment in a work area
  • Computer programs on your desktop that you never use
  • Excessive amounts of pre-printed literature or promotion material


  1. overprocessing

Unnecessary activities or resources are used to produce an outcome.  This may involve not completely understanding customer requirements.  Typically, this involves adding more complexity to a product, task or process than is necessary to get the desired value.  Overprocessing is not just a problem in manufacturing.  It happens in every sector.  Here are a few examples:

  • Software features that no one uses
  • Identical data is requested from the customer by multiple operators at a call center
  • An MRI when an X-Ray is sufficient
  • Applying two coats of paint when one is sufficient
  • Fastening and unfastening something multiple times
  • Complex purchasing processes with multiple approval levels



  1. human potential

When someone has the ability to perform a task or make an improvement, but that talent is not utilized.  May involve someone’s knowledge, skills, experience, or talent.  Wasted human potential can lead to employee turnover, increased, absenteeism, and disengagement.  It happens when:

  • Employees do not have the opportunity to learn new skills or utilize hidden ones
  • Employees do not feel valued
  • Employees are not involved in process improvement
  • Workers are not given opportunities for advancement

The good news about waste is that every time you identify waste within your organization, you have found an opportunity for improvement.  Waste identification is applicable in all environments.  Be careful not to create new waste while making changes.  Reducing any of the 8 Wastes of Lean can have a significant impact on business results.  The key to “Chasing Waste” is training our brain to help our “eyes” see things that aren’t readily apparent.  Don’t assume that well-established processes are as efficient as they can be.

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