In understanding what our customer’s value, it may be helpful to see value through the lens of what gets in the way of efficiency and performance. Lean gives us a common language to describe these sorts of nonvalue added, unnecessary activities – waste, in other words.
You can easily remember the seven traditional types of waste using the acronym TIM WOOD. Let’s look at each of these one by one.
T stands for Transportation, the unnecessary movement of information or materials during a process. Examples of transportation waste include: moving paperwork through approval processes, excessive email, multiple data handoffs, emailing attachments recipients don’t need, and unnecessary movement of equipment.
I is for Inventory, or any supply in excess of customer requirements necessary to make or deliver our products or services. Examples: overstocked office supplies, a document your customer didn’t ask for, anything that is batched.
Inventory is a huge form of waste. Avoid pushing products and services on to your customers until they need them. It’s better to use a “pull” system that monitors and responds to immediate customer demand. The purest form of pull is one-piece flow – making a single product just for that one order; 100% on demand, delivered just-in-time, with no inventory.
M stands for Motion, or more specifically, people in motion, as opposed to things, which is Transportation waste. Motion waste comprises all sorts of things, like the multiple trips you make back and forth to the printer, or the coffee pot, or an even better example, requiring inspectors to drive all the way to headquarters to get a pool car before heading back out into the field to do their work.
W is for waiting – people, parts, systems – anything that sits idly for a step in the process to be completed. Think of every process you have where the touch time involved may be only minutes, but the overall elapsed time is days or weeks. This is often a huge time sink and ripe for improvement.
One of the O’s stands for Overproduction, or producing more of something than our customer wants or needs. Overproduction is a bad form of waste because it quickly leads to others, like inventory. It kills organizational flow. It creates false deadlines, causing people to work harder than they should have to, which then results in burnout. Not good.
The other O stands for Overprocessing, defined as effort that adds no desired value to a product or service. Overprocessing often results because we don’t trust others in our process to do their job right the first time and every time. This is why we build in the process so many extra steps, and reviews and require multiple approvals. Rather than designing a simple process that eliminates potential for error, we add more layers of scrutiny and control. And then we think this crazy practice is normal. Overprocessing causes bottlenecks and delay and it ruins flow because you always have to have on hand the resources to meet the worst case, even if your average requirements are much lower.
D stands for defects, or do-overs. Defects launch the crazy cycle where actions and actions and reactions spin out of control, beyond recovery, and the new normal becomes a culture of crisis management and damage control. Suddenly you are not actually doing any value added work; instead your job is answering angry calls and explaining why deadlines are missed.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to Defects is everybody has ownership of the process and every step along the way. Even if you don’t own a particular step or action item, if you see something wrong, then you must stop the process, gather the team and fix the problem. Otherwise you’re just kicking the can down the road, expecting somebody else will catch it later. Meanwhile, you’ve created more waste and even set up potential where the customer receives a defective product. This can be disastrous for an organization’s brand. So be responsible and own the problems in your systems and processes.