Waiting is a waste. Keep your customers waiting??

In lean, waiting is classified as one of the main waste categories. Waiting is wasting of time, and money and effort. This form of waste is covered extensively in this blog. But how about keep your customer waiting? How big of a waste it can be?

I saw a post of this nature on the Mark’s leanblog.org. It clearly demonstrate how much of a waste it is to keep people waiting, specially a person with a blog and good reach. Bad experiences for a customer in general, will not only turn that customer away; it creates a negative feel and will eventually turn many more current and future customers away. Mark’s blog post is a good example of it.
Mark as a good lean consultant, looks at the cause of it. His observations and conclusions are very important. Organizations, which are trying to get the 100% utilization of the employees is losing one of the important points. Mark points out when employees are loaded to 100%, they are very less effective and there will be long queues. If the employee is in the direct customer care, this means long waiting time for customers and more frustrations and eventually loss of sales and profits. Even if the employee is not in the customer care, still this means lots of work in queue for the worker to complete. This is equally bad as well.
I always prefer Simple, optimized solutions, over complicated and high efficient solutions. Simple and optimized solutions generally provide better results as they are simple to understand and use and made to deliver the result in the bigger picture, not to keep people busy.
Lean management is different from scientific management and most of the other established management systems. It looks for the results by creating systems and eliminating wastes from the system, continuously not by pressing people, machines or any of the resources to its maximum.

The 8th Waste – Lean and You

Let your organization be a follower of lean manufacturing or not, what is the most important resource you have in your organization. Is it the market value, machinery, brand name? Yes all these can be very important for your organization. But how important the human element behind all these. Will you be able to build a valuable brand name without him, or can you operate and get the expected out come with a machine without him.

Lean Manufacturing and Human ResourceHuman resource is the most important of all resources. It is the only resource which can lead all the other resources like money, machinery and market to the expected outcome. In every successful organization there will be a large team of people making it happen.


But even in those well known organizations, are they exploring the full capability of the resources they have? It is a question always bothered me. Most of the people do routine jobs day after day. They will not exactly know the neither value addition they do nor new ways to create value to the system. Traditional organizations will think about maximizing use of their machinery while a lean organization would look at optimizing the use of its machinery, yet most of the organizations do not even realize they are wasting their most valuable asset of all, the human resource. This is the eighth (8th) waste of lean, for me the most important of all.


If you think thinking is the job of management and workers need to follow them you are wrong. If you are thinking of following lean manufacturing, then you are violating one of its basics, the respect for people. People should be respected for the jobs they are doing and they should be respected for the ability and knowledge they have to change to your organization.


People actually carrying out the job would know how to do that job better. So they can come up with simple yet effective solutions if given the correct guidance. Leaders of the organization must communicate the way of lean thinking to the entire organization. This will be a long term and never ending activity. Managers must provide the opportunity to the workers to come up with their ideas freely. They have to build the performance driven culture. Ideas should be valued with positive rewards. This is a good starting point for Kaizen or the continuous improvement.


A “lean human resource management team” can contribute towards the tangible benefits of the organization apart from the obvious functions they carryout day to day. They will not be doing a passive job in a lean context, but will be actually taking part in the value creation process for their customers. So the benefits will be directly linked to the outcome of the organization. Employee performance enhancement, value saved through innovations, employee retention rates can be some of the indicators you can measure. But for me the most important indicator would be the smiling faces of the work force 🙂


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Lean Manufacturing in AC vents manufacturing – Part 1

As promised in lean for our organization contest, I am publishing one of the good quality articles sent by one of our readers in a series of two articles. You will be able to incorporate these learning in your lean manufacturing efforts. Thanks for Satish the author of this article.

Lean Implementation:

Brief Introduction: Hi , I am Satish N Ladwa from India, I am into supplier performance engineering in an Automotive company which is into the manufacturing of Instrument panel Assemblies(4 wheeler dash board) for OEM’s , department name itself indicates my main role , i.e. to improve the suppliers performance in terms of Quality , Cost & delivery.

Problem Definition:

Refer the below snap shot of the product, this is the Air vent sub- assembly (Air Vents are the outlet for the AC in the car) used in the Instrument Panel Assembly. Air Vent parts are plastic injection molded & assembled at supplier end. This assembly contains 21 individual parts.

Requirement of this assembly is 400 nos / day; however in the existing established assembly line only 305 to 310 parts can be assembled in the normal 8 hour working shift. Many a times this has resulted in stoppage of customer line.

Air Vent - Product Manufactured (Changed to avoid any copyright issues)
The Original Picture sent by the author was changed to any Copyright Issues

Waste Categories:
– 2.2 hrs of over time for 15 people + 1 Supervisor.
– 15 people needed to run the assembly line.
– Inventory observed at intermediate stages.
– Through put time more.
– Unable to meet customer requirements.

Causes: To understand the cause for the delays in supplies 2 days where spent on assembly line to study all operation and material flow. Considering the detail observation the existing situation is plotted (refer below layout) along with records of cycle time, resource requirements, space requirement etc.

Work place arrangement before lean manufacturingPROBLEMATIC SITUATION OF AIR VENT ASSEMBLY LINE

Following are the Cycle Time Details

 Cycle Time Variation And Non Leveled Production (Non Heijunka)

Observations are:

  1. First piece from comes out only after 361 sec from the start of assembly line.
  2. Thereafter time required 85sec / part.
  3. After every 100 nos operator found to leave there place to re-fill there bins with parts to continue with assembly, hence line stops for 10 mins
  4. After every ~2 hrs.
  5. Manpower used 15 nos.
  6. Overtime paid for ~2.2 hrs.
  7. Unnecessary stages are added hence consuming more time / manpower and space.
  8. Stages / Cycle time is not balanced.
  9. Inventory observed in-between A-B / E-F / J-K operations.
  10. Supervisor is always under pressure to meet customer requirements.
  11. In the existing situation only 307 parts can be produced against the requirement of 400 / day.
  12. Existing space utilized is 11.5 x 3.3 meters.

Read Part 2 Of this Post

Lean concepts for energy industry

I always believed that lean manufacturing concepts can be applied in the energy sector to make it much more efficient. Today we have the best time to be lean on energy with the higher price of oil and electricity. We as the entire world need to be looking at new ways of generating energy. But meanwhile we have to understand that we are wasting huge amounts of energy and we must look for the ways to use energy much more effectively by eliminating wastes. Although I am not an expert on energy, I can find many ways people waste energy in their house, office, manufacturing plant and on road.

It is said that if you maintain correct pressure, you will be saving 5% on your fuel. A CFL lighting source will reduce the energy consumption to give the same amount of light more than by half. Wastages of heat in transportation through pipe from boilers to the other areas of manufacturing will depend on the quality of the insulation you use o your pipes. I can keep on adding to this list. I am sure you also will be able to do so.

One of the main advantages of saving on energy is that it will directly impact your bottom line, even without changing the top line of your business. Eliminating waste in energy can follow the steps any lean manufacturing implementation would follow. You can start with a value stream map (Or you may call what ever you want). This will show you where the wastes are. You can use lean tools like JIT techniques, TPM, cause and effect diagrams to find ways to eliminate waste from your system. Six sigma concepts can be used to monitor the system continuously and to identify the deviations.

A recent press release by TBM consulting group who are driving lean energy initiatives revealed that 10% saving on energy will be an equivalent of $10.4 billion for the US manufacturers alone. It also reported that there will be 4-8% saving on annual energy cost with a one week kaizen event focused on single source of energy supply. Considerable amount isn’t it? especially when we think this will add directly to the bottom line of the organization.

If you start saving energy no doubt it will help you in the competitive markets. Not only it will reduce cost, it will make you a green supplier making you attractive to your customers. On the other hand you will be helping the entire globe and its citizens.

Having said all these, you must always remember the prime lean principle of looking at the total picture when you implement your lean energy plans. Saving on your energy should not compromise on other aspects like quality, health of employees etc.

Lean manufacturing and human resource

In the heart of lean manufacturing is the human resource. It is the most important of all the resources available for any lean organization. This is the only resource which can think and feel and importantly can make decisions consciously. No matter what is the industry you are in, people and respect for them forms a one primary pillar of lean. But unfortunately this is the most commonly wasted resource as well.

Wasting the human resource is most damaging for any organization. People will have more to offer your organization than what they offer now. Most of the success stories of lean are successful not because its tools or software etc. They are successful because they have found out the ways of using their human resources effectively in their operations. When guided with lean thinking and leadership motivated people can do wonders for your organization.

There are plenty of theories about motivation out there. All agree in one thing in common. People can not be made productive only with money. There are many other ways of motivating and making them happy. In a de motivated environment a person will only do what he has to do for his survival. If he is not de motivated he will put bit more effort and if he is motivated he will give his maximum effort to the organization.

In lean thinking people are respected. Respect is shown to them in many ways. One of the most important ways to respect an employee is by giving him the responsibility and the ability to make decisions. People who are actually doing the job will know how to do it better. All a lean manufacturer will have to do is facilitate people to come out with their ideas and implement them.

Importance of human resource will be the same in software, service and office environment. In fact importance of human resource will be higher in these environments than in manufacturing. Higher the respect for people, higher the out put from them. This is why Google became the best place to work in US. Not because they pay tons of money because they respect people and they use them effectively.

With this post I am concluding the series on wastes of lean manufacturing. I hope this was helpful to you.

Lean manufacturing and defects

Lean manufacturing is about eliminating non value added activities from the system. Defects are one of the most important waste categories identified in lean. Every defective product or a poor quality service costs the organization more than we think. It costs the organization money, time and other resources and importantly the reputation of the organization.

Actually it is interesting to study the steps involved in making and correcting a mistake. First the organization will make the defective product. This takes time and money. Then the organization identifies that there is a problem. This involves checking and related costs. Then we have to find the ways of correcting error. This again costs you in terms of money and time. Then we have to redo the product without errors. So we spend three times of resources in the process of making and correcting errors. But if the defective product reaches the customer the damage will be irreversible. Not only you are going to loose the customer who purchased the product, unsatisfied customers can stop other from coming to you. In the worst case you might have to face legal problems.

Most of the organizations work on the concept of AQL. They accept some degree of defects based on the lost size and the quality standard maintained. But as a lean thinker I do not like the concept of AQL. As lean manufacturing propose the quality should be inbuilt. Quality check is not the answer. Let’s say we are following a very high quality rating and we allow only 0.5% possibility of having a defect in a lot of 200. If we rephrase this, we can pass 1 defective piece of products to the customer for every 200 pieces we ship. Isn’t that scary? Although we ship them in bulk the user is not going to buy in bulk most of the times. If the customer buys 1 piece and if he found that to be defective they will never return to you.

In services and offices defects can not be easily identified. But you can easily get an idea by looking at the end customer. If they are not happy you are not providing a good service to them.

In the software development context, defective products are software which does not function as intended. In the systems which are vastly automated and integrated a defective piece of software can create unimaginably large losses to the user.

Application of lean concepts must ideally create a process where all the possibilities of having a defect are eliminated. Quality is inbuilt to the system hence there will not be any requirement to check the products specifically for the defects. Tools used in lean like JIT, KanBan and PokaYoke (mistake proofing) will make sure the system is not going to manufacture defective products.

Defects are identified as a result than a cause in lean manufacturing. Amount of defects is a good indicator which indicates the degree of imperfection in the system.

Lean and excess motion

Excess motion is a waste associated mainly with the manufacturing sector. Lean manufacturing identifies excess motion as non value adding. Therefore this is categorized as a major waste in lean context.

Transporting goods and raw material is a waste and this is discussed earlier. But how many times a person has to move in their day to day operations. How much of time is actually spent in value adding in comparison with the movements which dose not adds value. If someone has to bend to pick up a part before it is being assembled, how many time he has to do this over and over again. This wastes time, breaks the flow of work and especially can create health problems. Using a simple conveyer system might solve the problem and hence the waste of higher movement.

In general, excess movements are due to ergonomic problems. Lighting, height of the seat and the space the workstation all play a part in creating a productive work environment. Identifying wastes of these kinds needs trained eyes. Simple changes to the system can make a huge difference to the end result.

In lean office and lean service context all the factors we discussed in manufacturing will remain the same. Better computer monitors, cleaning the desk and adjusting the seat height, correct height of the table can make a difference. But in office and service context excess motion can be described as unnecessary processing or over processing. This is mainly due to the imperfections in the process design. Identifying the waste is the hardest task. Once identified it is very easy to remove from the system

In software development environment, motion can be identified as unnecessary movement of data and information. Excess motion of data takes place due to problems in the development process. Seamless integration within and between software is the simplest solution to this problem. Users need not to go to several screens in entering their information. Users will get all the required information in a single report. This will prevent users from moving between screens in generating the report.

Although easily visible in manufacturing environment, waste of excess motion can be identified in offices, service providers and even in software development. Once identified this can be removed from the system with simple adjustments and application of lean manufacturing techniques and concepts.

Lean manufacturing, Inventory and Work In Progress (WIP)

When we talk about lean manufacturing we talk about inventory and work in progress all the times. Lean and inventory are that close and therefore can not be separated. Lean manufacturing identifies inventory and WIP as the mirror of the imperfection system contain. Every imperfection creates a requirement for WIP in manufacturing. Apart from being a great reflector to the system imperfections, inventory becomes a waste by itself. Therefore work in progress and inventory in general is classified as a waste in lean waste classification.

With higher inventory, capital will be tied up. In simple words you get little cash by selling goods after investing large amounts of money in manufacturing it. Cost will be high since there are related costs like interests. So either product will be sold with higher price tag or the organization will loose money from its bottom line. Higher inventory and work in progress hides the problems. Problems are hidden in higher work in progress and will be not possible to remove from the system. For an example if we have one day of work in progress with us, a part manufactured today will be used in the next work station only tomorrow. If we start making a quality defect today, only by tomorrow we will get to know about that. So we will loose full one day of effort. Worst part is we have to redo it. This is almost three times of the effort and cost.

In lean manufacturing context it is not possible simply to reduce or remove inventory and work in progress from your system. Root cause to higher work in progress is one of the other seven wastes we are discussing. So identifying the correct root cause and treating them will reduce the WIP and higher levels of inventory. Just In Time manufacturing, purchasing and distribution techniques have a direct impact on the inventory levels. By using these techniques with other techniques like root cause analysis you will be able to reduce the inventory levels and avoid the problems identified.

In a lean office or in a lean service we can identify work in progress as unfinished service requests from users. For an example work in progress can be measured by the time taken to process an application or with the number of applications in a work station to be processed. Higher the work to be processed higher the process lead time. This can make costly delays to the service requesters and in the organization. For an example if your marketing office people couldn’t read a mail from your customer on the same day it was sent how big the impact would be if the customer says he is going to cancel the order to be processed on that day. Again mostly of the times reasons for higher work in process in an office or a service are same as explained in manufacturing. It will be a reflector of the problems you have in your system. You can remove them with the lean techniques explained throughout the blog and in this series of posts on lean and waste.

In software development point of view inventory can be referred as developments which are started but not finished. In a lean software development environment software must be developed in small parts which will be integrated to make the full product later. If we wait until the full massive software is finished to test and deliver products it will take longer and the timelines will be increased. Again work in progress is mainly mirrors the imperfections the system contain. When you change the system by applying lean techniques you will have lesser WIP and inventory of work. You will be able to deliver good quality software fast.

Work in progress is a key element in lean manufacturing. It is the single most important visual indicator reflecting the level of waste a system contain. And as we identified with this post inventory and WIP can be a waste by itself.


If you need further information you may find the below presentation useful. This presentation covers main topics relevant to inventory and WIP reduction like Pull Scheduling, Kanban and JIT. Entire presentation is 68 slides in length. You may download a sample here. To buy through secure servers please use this link

Lean manufacturing and inappropriate tooling (or inappropriate processing)

This is the fifth post on lean manufacturing and its categorization of wastes. Today we focus on inappropriate tooling or processing. It is a simple but very important waste to identify.

In manufacturing context inappropriate tooling means using improper tools or processes for the job. Every job requires a set of tools and will have a defined process to follow. Most of the manufacturers use state of art technologies in their facilities. But the reality is in most of the cases only a fraction of the functionalities are used. Tons of money in purchasing and heavy maintenance is involved with these tools and technologies. Obviously this means cost. But the output is minimal. So why maintain such complicated machinery and tools. Lean manufacturing always encourage low cost and simple and low tech automation. They are very easy to maintain and costs very less. Best part is they are custom made for the requirement. When it comes to processes how many checking points a product have to pass through. How many times a part will go back and forth before it getting completed? All these are problems of inappropriate processing.

Waste of over processing is mainly due to poor planning of layouts and machinery. Generally people tend to think more is good. They go for high output and high tech machinery. Most of them forget the requirement and never think about simple solutions. Layouts are generally designed to help this bulk machinery. This increases the unnecessary processing.

In a lean office (or in a lean service place) the courses of inappropriate processing are the same. Unnecessary processes are built like authorizations and signatures. This eats up time yet add no value. Tools like email and other forms of e communication techniques are used extensively and most of the times unnecessarily. Expensive IT systems are built but rarely used and making them worthless.

To overcome inappropriate processing tooling processes must be realigned. Layouts must be redesigned to suit the lean office. Using tools like emails and systems must be carefully analyzed and used to support the system.

In software development inappropriate tooling can be referred as using wrong languages to develop the software, using wrong methodologies of software development and so on. From a user point of view this means extra steps in getting the expected result or having too many options to choose from (when they always use only one).

Better design processes and requirement capturing and planning will eliminate this waste from software development. Users must get only what they need and they should be able to get the desired result without wondering what to do. Think about Google. How simple is it to use Google than other search engines.

Lean manufacturing always encourages simplicity. Simple solutions works best and most of the times they are very low cost and also they are easy to maintain.

Transportation – A waste of non lean manufacturing

This is the fourth post on wastes identified in lean manufacturing. In this post we discuss about transportation. Lean identifies transportation as one of the wastes in manufacturing context. But we can identify similar wastes in offices, service providers and software development. So let’s discuss one by one.

In manufacturing context transportation refers to the movement of goods in the form of raw material, semi finished goods or in finish goods from one place to another without adding value to the product. If we look at the ideal lean manufacturing unit, the process of manufacturing is initiated by the customer. Then the manufacturer process the RM to the finished product and delivers it to the customer then and their. So in the ideal process there is no waste called transportation. But in the reality we can not completely avoid transportation. For an example most of the raw material suppliers are not within the manufacturing premises, nor is the customer. This makes transportation is a requirement. But if you analyze carefully you will have tremendous amount of transportation even within your manufacturing premises. This does not add value to your final product. So obviously any lean manufacturer will treat this as a waste.

First to identify the way your goods move in your manufacturing premises from RM until becoming a finished product, you can draw up a diagram following the physical path of the product. This is known as a spaghetti diagram in most of the cases. This is because they look like a plate of spaghetti, messy and hard to follow the path even on the diagram. If you measure the distance that product has traveled before becoming a finished product you will be amazed.

Transportation is mainly due to problems in layout designs. Poor layouts and usage of inappropriate mass manufacturing techniques and machinery will increase the transportation in your organization. Transportation increases the lead time, reduces the flexibility of the system. Obviously this will increase work in progress.

Using lean manufacturing techniques you can eliminate the waste of transportation. This requires careful mapping of the process as described earlier, and re arranging the layout and machinery to reduce transportation. Processes also need to be re arranged.

In an office the cause of transportation is not different. Poor layout designs and processes increase the transportation. In an office transportation can be identified with the distance document moves or the amount of people involved in an email communication or number of work stations someone has to move before getting their job done.

Lean office should not have unnecessary movements of documents (including e communication), people involved in the process. Most of the offices will have to rethink their processes and align them to a lean process. For an example number of signatures required to finalize the process can increase the transportation. If we rearrange the process by removing unnecessary processes of signing the documents it can reduce the transportation greatly.

In lean software developments, transportation can be identified as having too many iterations going back and forth, too many errors identified in testing and subsequent processing and so on. Even in software levels, how the data is processed and amount of tables a query has to read can be considered as transportation.

Re arranging the methods of requirement capturing, program and data structures will make the process of software development effective.

In service context transportation can be number of work stations someone has to go to before they get he job done, number of options they have to navigate before getting to the service they require when they call your organization. Again this is due to poor arrangement of services or processes.

In a lean service people should get what they want from the place they walk into. They must be guided to the correct place with effective communication. Once they visit the service provider, there should not be any more movement.

So transportation can be identified not only in lean manufacturing. We can identify transportation in offices, services and also in software development. Removing transportation from the system will increase the flexibility of the system, and will reduce the lead time and also will reduce the work in progress.