We’re going to touch on something near and dear to our hearts in any kind of a business setting. Specifically, identifying an illuminating the sources of business waste.
It is my pleasure here to introduce to you in a moment another of the authors of the book, Driving Operational Excellence, Mr. Gary Wickett. In Chapter 14, Gary takes a refreshing look at practical ways to think about waste and a very pragmatic and simple approach to smoking out the true root causes of systemic and process wastes. I like Gary’s chapter so well I included it as reading for the Michigan government process reengineering program I recently developed and delivered.
One of the things I particularly liked about Gary’s chapter is he makes it specific to the service providing industry. He uses a fantastic case study in applying these techniques, so no matter what it is you do, there’s some value here to you.
Thank you so much for the invitation, Ron. I’m happy to be here.
Here’s a little of my background. I have over 30 years’ experience in the high tech industry, mostly with StorageTek Technologies and Sun Microsystems. And during that time, I was Manager of the Lean Integration Office in Industrial Engineering. That gave me quite a few opportunities to implement Lean projects. We had a focus on manufacturing, obviously, and we did a lot of work with the back office, product return and those kind of things. But, a key piece that I had back then was working with our key suppliers. We had a lot of opportunities to implement Lean with our supply base. I’m the owner and president of GW Lean Engineering, and vice president at Transformance Advisors which is a company that teaches Lean education and consulting. I have an MBA in Industrial Engineering from Penn State and am a Certified Supply Chain Analyst and a Certified Supply Chain Professional, 5S Certified, Certified Lean Master and I have two Green Belts.
I got interested in the Just-In-Time concept back in the 80s. At that point I did my Masters’ paper on that subject. Since then, I’ve been hooked on Lean.
Well, you’ve got a very impressive background and obviously been there, done that. And, you know, really helping organizations getting better results. So, I’m kind of interested in more of the story behind that and, kind of, what led you to write this particular chapter?
At one point in time, I was able to work for an executive team that embraced Lean. As you know, that’s typically one of the biggest barriers to Lean, not getting the buy-in at that level. But, fortunately, part of the team bought into Lean concepts and, at that point, I was designated the Manager of the Lean Integration Office. It gave me the opportunity to lead dozens of value stream mapping exercises, Kaizens and waste walk exercises doing industrial mapping. In these walks, we identify all the waste in a process and typically these are the in the DOWNTIME acronym: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Not Utilizing Staff Talent/Neglected Resource, Travel, Inventory, Motion, Excess Processing.
Neglected Resource/Talent is the waste that I expanded on, not only for unutilized talent but I’ve seen situations where people aren’t using the correct software, the right machine or the right equipment. I also expand a little on the waste of unnecessary transportation, inventory, motion and excessive processing.
Why don’t you just elaborate on the waste walk?
A waste walk is actually a process where you take a team of individuals, and you go to Gemba, which is a term for where the action is, where the events occur. There you look for the different waste, visually, and you try to capture what’s happening and identify what waste would be occurring in your process at that time.
I noticed that the team members were seeing different kinds of waste. We would come back and huddle later on in the conference room do our due diligence, post the waste on the board and try to categorize it all. People would have comments like “Ahhh that’s a good one. I didn’t see that waste,” or, “Where did you see that?” or, “Wow, that is something that I kind of overlooked.” So, I was noticing that different people were seeing different kinds of waste. It occurred to me then that there were probably a lot of wastes that were left on the table, that were going unnoticed, out in Gemba.
The next time we did the waste walk, I recommended, “why don’t we put just a listing of the eight wastes on the side of your document when you’re doing a waste walk or value stream map, sort of as a tickler. So when you’re there observing, make sure you capture all the different eight wastes and to see if there’s a relationship there.”
When we came back into the conference room again and categorized these. I noticed an improvement in the amount of wastes we were gathering. There started to be a different set of questions and comments. They were now focusing in on the eight wastes: “Was the gate calibration causing defects?” and “Well, one of the operators told me that his boss told him not to worry about that because that’s someone else’s problem.” even “Well, can they use a fixture?” It then occurred to me that what we should also be doing during waste walks is drilling down into some of the causes, the root causes of some of these wastes.
One of the biggest problems that I mentioned earlier was the reluctance of the management team and even individuals to change their mindset and current way of thinking. So, using the Ishikawa 6Ms, I added an additional category that I felt really needed high-level attention, which is Mindset. Which is probably a major cause of a lot of waste in your process. An inability for people to change their mind, change their behavior. So, I developed, what I mention in the book, seven wastes. As we were doing our waste walk, we would look at the mindset of the individuals, asking “is that causing the waste? Is the person causing the waste? Is the method causing that waste? Are the machines being used causing the waste? Are the materials causing the waste? The measurement system, is that causing the waste? And, mother nature’s role?” We actually put together a matrix of the 7Ms and scan them with the eight wastes, which would then give us a tool so we could take a deep dive look into the causes of the wastes. We then proceeded to train the team up to look for the causes and wastes.
Here’s one of my favorite stories. This happened at one of our strategic sourcing suppliers. Wwe had done our Lean training for the employees and talked about the Lean basics, like the Kaizen, the quick changeover, 5S, Poka-Yoke, value stream mapping, etc. We instructed this team on how to use this waste-cause tool for the value stream mapping exercise that was scheduled for the next day. I asked the group to review the waste and causes overnight before we huddled the next morning for our value stream mapping exercise.
One of the team members, and thankfully for her, she misunderstood the assignment, showed up the next day with a list of at least one waste in each one of the categories and each one of the causes. If you do the math, that gave us 56 things that she had identified as possible improvements for the process. I thought, “Wow, this is terrific!” Some of the waste was kind of mis-assigned as to where she had positioned it, but I did notice the Line Supervisor was cringing, like, “Lady! You’re airing my dirty laundry.” I interrupted her and I mentioned that this team should really be grateful to this woman and her efforts and fortunate to have a manager that would encourage and allow this kind of communication as a team. I gave a lot of kudos to the manager for his ability to really be a manager and a leader and to encourage this behavior. So, it turned out to just be a top notch implementation at that point.
Great story. So, there are a lot of bits and pieces there. What would you consider to be the core meat of this topic around seeing where the waste is?
One of the things which is key, is this waste-cause tool can be used in other industries, not only in the manufacturing environment, but also in service and healthcare. It’s a tool that can be universally applied. For example, in the book, a colleague of mine who worked in a law firm used it.
I guess another thing is, give your people the time to look for all of the possible waste and causes in the process. Don’t focus on the obvious waste. There may be some other hidden or underlying causes. You want to list all the waste and causes and then establish a Pareto analysis to find out what the critical wastes are — work on those.
The Pareto analysis is the 80/20 rule. If you take a look at what’s going on and your population of information, you’re going to find that 20% of the waste and root causes you identify are actually the culprits behind 80% of the opportunity or the losses that you may be encountering. So, what else can you share with us about this, Gary?
I think it is equally important not only looking for the waste and causes, but to practice waste prevention in your waste walk. There may be an opportunity or possibility that a waste may occur in a particular area. So put action plans in place. Be proactive in the system. I’ll give you one example, if you’re in a warehouse, back in the manufacturing example again, and see some water on the floor, don’t overlook that. There’s a reason it’s there. It may not be a cause of waste at this point but there may be a possibility that this may damage your product down the road.
So, that was a lot of great information to think about. So what would you think is the biggest takeaway for people reading this interview?
I would think the biggest takeaway, Ron, is, number one: train your people in Lean. Train them how to identify waste and how to do a root-cause analysis. And above all, empower your team to investigate these wastes and their causes. We know many of these wastes and causes will overlap and they contribute to each other. It’s not important as to exactly what category this waste falls in, but the fact you’ve identified it, you can then put an action plan in place. And don’t assume that you know the answer of what is causing the waste without drilling down deeper into the process.