What Are You Wasting Today?

I’ve written before about the concept of “waste” around business – no, not trash or garbage, but resources which you literally are throwing away and not even realizing them as such. You’ve heard it before, maybe through the Seven Wastes/Seven Mudas Lean concept or some efficiency expert who perhaps passed through last year – the waste of any company resource is like the waste of time: you can never get it back.

Some of the places you can find waste might surprise you. Besides the usual Seven Wastes, have you ever thought of how you’re wasting your employees’ potential? That’s right – internal and external training and education not only allows your company to become a true “Learning Organization,” but it ensures your employees the opportunity to be the “best in class” within your industry. And don’t forget mentoring opportunities, for much the same reason.

One of the SevenWastes is Waste of Inventory. That’s all well and good, but very few Materials Managers or Supply Chain execs really know what to to with excess, obsolete or slow-moving inventory. And, since this kind of inventory doesn’t usually get measured within these employees’ KPI’s (it’s not production- or shipping-centered, therefore, not revenue capture), the stuff just usually sits in place, wasting money by not being sold, resold or bartered for more company cash flow.

Want another hard-to-visualize waste? Have you considered weak or non-existent work station prep work and clean-up? It really doesn’t fall into into the Seven Wastes category because most rational-thinking people think it’s a given that a company would keep it’s workplaces relatively clean and ready to do work in. But it never ceases to amaze me that something as simple as ensuring the right tools are in place or people cleaning up after themselves – anytime during the day – would be something that causes companies to leave thousands of easy dollars on the table, so to speak. (Note: One of the biggest problems in this area are IT departments not keeping workstations clean and upgraded. Yeah – a computer is a machine and they get filthy inside.)
The last wasteful waste I’ll talk about is “defects.” Yes, it is one of the Seven Wastes, but rarely (if ever) is it addressed outside of the manufacturing floor. I’m not saying anything that you fellow Lean experts and Six Sigma belts don’t already know and teach; but Lois screwing up a purchase order or Thomas not handling that customer service call are every bit a “defect” as Moe messing up a CNC program out on the floor.

Finally, I find that well over 97% of the companies I work with have no idea how to metricize what they’re wasting, even after it’s been identified in all its forms and on its way to mitigation. I’ll address this in a future post.

So, maybe tomorrow when you show up to work, start looking for these hidden wastes of company money – because that’s exactly what it is, as sure as if you were burning the Alexander Hamiltons yourself.