Let’s talk about waste

Not your hedge trimmings or leftover macaroni cheese; waste that can slip into our work stream without us even realising. The kind of waste that makes us sigh about lost desk time or poor planning.

As much as waste is something we all want to reduce, before we throw it all in the bin, it’s worth sorting through our waste to find out the type of things we are discarding. You might find something insightful!

The concept of streamlining processes and reducing waste was brought into focus by Toyota, who developed Lean manufacturing processes back in the 70’s. There is a wealth of information about this online. Here we will keep it brief and talk about the 8 types of waste.

Much like your recycling, waste needs to be split up and processed. One of the most common wastes we all experience is Waiting. Waiting for a document to be signed off or for a colleagues input, before we can proceed with our work. Minimising waiting, for example by storing information in a shared area, gives us more time to action the tasks at hand. Keep your team unblocked with clear governance processes and timeframes.

Needing to Re-do work is another type of waste. In a truly efficient process, work only needs to be done once. In real life, we can find ourselves with new data or updated deliverables which mean we need to take a few steps back to keep moving forward. This links quite closely to Over-Production, or doing more than a contract requires. All of this takes (or wastes) time; time that could be spent working on actual deliverables. Setting clear plans and agreeing the deliverables at the start of a project can help protect this, as can iterative sense checking and QA.

What about meetings? A sometimes controversial topic, I believe they can be extremely beneficial when run well. However, travelling to a meeting which could have happened online is a waste, one we have all been getting better at reducing over the last few years. Make meetings only as long as necessary and always share an agenda before the call. This will help keep everyone focused.

Where there is a physical product, a good inventory should be maintained. Manufacturing more than you need ‘just in case’ can lead to extra storage costs and a higher chance of breakages. Think about your organisation’s flow of orders, a ‘just in time’ approach may suit you better. Equally, double handling products around a warehouse can lead not only to excess waste, but a worn-out and demoralised team. Create a warehouse plan, share this with the team and stick to it.

Similar wastes can still appear for technology companies. Over-Processing, or building more functionality than is needed, adds unnecessary steps to a process. It might be an interesting rabbit hole you wish to dive down, but you should use restraint, especially where timeframes are tight. Your work area should also be set up so that you have everything you need in one space.

The last waste relates to our team’s skills, talent and experience. Not using talent within a team is a waste, and a good way to unknowingly push them out of the door. Get to know your team so you can put the right people on the right job and identify their ongoing training and development needs.

So, how much waste do you think you can find in your processes? When looking through things, come back to these two questions:

  1. Does this add value to the customer?
  2. Do we have to do this in order to keep the business running?

If you haven’t answered yes to both of the above, that part of the process can probably be classed as waste.

By Millie Brookes
Categorized as blog

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