When people hear lean manufacturing , they immediately think of waste reduction through the elimination of the eight wastes often referred to as Muda.

Muda was primarily derived from the Toyota Production System and is part of three Japanese “Mu” words:

Muda (Waste), Mura (unevenness), and Muri (overburden)

Each of these is a type of waste and instantly recognized by the Japanese as part of a business improvement initiative.

Waste is plenty during manufacturing and much of it goes unnoticed or unaddressed. If you’re thinking of waste as purely the scrap material that gets thrown away, you’re focusing on a very small part of the bigger picture. Any process or action that costs money, but does not add value, can be classified as waste. You must identify and eliminate these wastes if you want to achieve lean manufacturer status.

Waste can also be found in office processes. It is often harder to identify the waste in an office environment because the process relies heavily on the administrative tasks of humans.

Muda is only part of the continuous improvement tools, but it is the one that most people focus on because it is the easiest to recognize and tackle. Eliminating waste is the way to decrease your costs and therefore improve profit and productivity; this is one of the aims of lean manufacturing.

The eight wastes of manufacturing are:

  1. Defects – Efforts caused by rework, scrap and incorrect information.
  2. Overproduction – Making too much, or too soon.
  3. Waiting – Wasted time waiting for the next step in the process.
  4. Non-utilized human potential – skills, talents, and creativity
  5. Transport – Unnecessary movement of product and material.
  6. Inventory – Excess product & materials not being processed.
  7. Movement – Unnecessary movement by people.
  8. Extra Processing – Non-value adding activities in the process that are unnecessary.

Waste can further be separated into two categories:

  • Pure waste – Adds no value and can be eliminated immediately.
  • Non-Value Add – Adds no value but is required for the way things are currently done.

“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.” – Shigeo Shingo

Lean Methodology to remove waste:

Waste observation must be done at the Gemba (the place where the work is performed). Launch your team, using the same tools and systems that you use to launch every process improvement team. Train your people to ensure that everyone is very clear about what your Operational Definitions for waste are. Then, observe the process, and facilitate discussions about what was observed in larger groups to get ideas about how to reduce the identified wastes. Make a plan to implement your chosen counter-measures. And lastly, remember to follow up on each of your chosen counter-measures by completing the PDCA cycle.

Systems2win, a solution of Haldan Consulting, provides standardized templates for continuous improvement, including the Muda Observation sheet. Using this template, your team can enter user-defined subcategories which they find most useful for analyzing the unique types of waste found in your processes.

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