Avoiding Performance Waste

In our efforts to become more “green,” we are often concerned with the waste that our companies produce, such as paper, material scrap, or even liquid and airborne pollutants.

What’s Robbing Effectiveness and Efficiency?

In our efforts to become more “green,” we are often concerned with the waste that our companies produce, such as paper, material scrap, or even liquid and airborne pollutants. There is another kind of waste that is even more prevalent in our operations, but which is often harder to spot – Performance Waste. This waste consists of the steps in our work processes that do not contribute to customer satisfaction; in fact, it actively gets in the way of pleasing the customer.

As customers ourselves, we have all experienced Performance Waste from time to time. We have endured a lengthy check-in process at a hotel; we’ve filled out the same information multiple times in the waiting room at the doctor’s office; and we’ve wondered why our CPA takes so long with our taxes.

As business people, we don’t want our customers to endure the Performance Waste in our operation. And if we want to earn a profit or beat the competition, we don’t want to endure it either.

Performance Waste builds up over time, like barnacles on a ship, especially in small companies that are growing (and if you think, computer-automated processes are immune, think again). Are you interested in customer satisfaction, speed to market, or cost in your business? Then you need to attack Performance Waste relentlessly. The first step is being able to see this waste. Here are three of the most prevalent types of waste and how to spot them.


1. Transportation. Transportation Waste is any excessive movement of your product through your operation. Your “product” might be raw metal that is turned into an aircraft part, a file with your client’s information, or a patient at a hospital. A great way to measure Transportation Waste is with a spaghetti diagram. Draw or print out a copy of your facility’s floor plan and gather a few of your workers. With a highlighter, ask the workers to trace the path that your product takes through your plant from the time it enters your receiving area until the finished product leaves the facility.

Executives are almost always amazed at how far their product travels. In the few short minutes that this exercise takes, a recent client that manufactures machine parts found that his product travels over a mile in his relatively small facility. He quickly realized Transportation Waste was costing him significant time and money. Once his people saw the waste, they were able to fix it.


2. Motion. This waste does not concern your product, but your people. Motion Waste is “moving without working.” At a maintenance facility last year, we watched the movement of technicians; on average, each technician moved away from the workstation about five times per hour, usually to ask a question or to search for information. Communication is a good thing, but how much of it is asking questions one should already know or searching for tools or files they should have at their fingertips? It’s astounding how this can add up.

Have a few of your people write tick marks on a pad of paper every time they must stop what they are doing to ask a question or search for something needed to do their job. After a week, they will be eager to share opportunities for improvement.


3. Waiting. Waiting Waste is usually the biggest waste of all and involves both your product and your employees. Walk out to your production area and look around. Are your products being actively worked on or are most of them sitting in bins or on shelves waiting? Same question for your client files: Is someone working on each file or are most of the files stacked in an inbox waiting? Even if your files are electronic, you can ask the same question.

The job may be waiting for a missing piece of information, a part from the stockroom, or for other work to get out of the way – but it’s not being worked! The next time a finished job leaves your operation, note how long it has been since the job first arrived; this is your lead time. Estimate how many hours of “hands-on” labor were actually required to complete the job. Divide the hands-on hours by the lead time hours. How agonizingly small is the resulting ratio? Ten percent? Five percent?

Performance Waste is bad for your business, but it’s also something that can be identified and eliminated. Go after it and be relentless.


Don Johnston_BWDon Johnston is CEO of CAS Adaptive Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in corporate transformations through Lean, Six Sigma, and Design for Lean Six Sigma. For more information, CASAdaptive.com





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