Waste. With all the attention for Lean nowadays, you would think that the discussion about waste would be concluded by now. Still, on the Internet, the debate about waste categories recently reared its head again. The most well-known acronyms that are used to indicate the categories of waste are TIMWOOD, NOWTIME, DOWNTIME and CLOSEDMITT. The thing that strikes me time and again is that most of these categories actually point at practices that lead to waste; the causes of waste. What is being wasted, however, apparently seems to be of less importance. But isn’t that just the point? Where does the waste of energy go, for instance, in most of these categories? In this post I break a lance for another approach in the hunt for waste; the one from the point of view of available resources.
Traditional Categories of Waste
It isn’t really necessary in this blog, I feel, to give a moment’s thought to the already known categories of waste. An overview is available with colleague Lean thinkers such as Mark Rosenthal or Michel Baudin, but any Google Search on one of the mentioned acronyms will provide you with an abundance of hits.
But as said, the thing that strikes me time and again is that these categories mostly describe wasteful practices, not necessarily waste. The ‘things’ being wasted are often far less explicit in the existing overviews. We seem to be talking more about the causes of waste, which surprises me. Isn’t Lean thinking about starting with the result, the effect, the consequence, and from there trying to find the causes of the waste that was found? Aren’t we jumping to conclusions with our current waste categories? I feel we run the risk of overlooking both wastes and wasteful practices in this way. Before we indicate wasteful practices, shouldn’t we first focus on what actually might be wasted?
Wasting Valuable Resources
The point of view that I often take when hunting for waste is mainly focused on recognizing waste by closely observing the use (or sometimes non use and abuse) of available resources. These resources are valuable and wasting them (i.e., not adding value with them or extracting value from them, or using more than necessary of them) doesn’t only cost us money, but even represents a disrespect for the value of the resource. When being able to see where resources are being wasted, we can then turn towards finding the causes of this waste, i.e., the practices that waste these resources. So what resources can typically be encountered and potentially wasted?
- Men: not, or not fully, making use of the available time and craftsmanship of your people.
- Means: buildings, machines, equipment, tooling, etc. that were bought or being rented and that are not fully used to add value.
- Materials: both direct materials (raws, semifinished, parts, etc.) and indirect materials (additives, MRO supplies, etc.) possibly being wasted.
- Meters (Space): space that is unused or not efficiently used to add value.
- MegaWatt (Energy): energy (in various forms) that isn’t efficiently used, not recovered to the fullest, or even downright wasted.
- Mother Nature: wasting or spoiling natural resources such as air, soil and water but also the environment in general (horizon, noise, light).
- Money: by spending more money than required to add value now and in the future (in the purchase of capital equipment and materials, but also of services and on payroll.
Keeping the above in mind, one can effectively hunt for the waste of resources (both within and outside the buildings of the organization) and from there chase down the wasteful practices that are at the source of the waste of these valuable and sometimes scarce resources that are available to us. I also think that with this approach, the playing field where Lean can prove its effectiveness can further be enlarged. I haven’t found a nice acronym yet though, but with 7M’s this maybe even isn’t required to help us in our hunt for waste!