‘Waste’ in the context of organizations is using resources or engaging in an activity that does not add any value to the end customer. If a customer is willing to pay for an action or process, it is considered to be of “value”. If not, it is considered to be wastage and hence needs to be eliminated. This thought process has lead to the production practices called Lean Manufacturing or simply Lean. The main objective is to eliminate wastage of time, effort and raw materials during manufacturing, thereby increasing productivity, profitability, and cash flow.
So, what can organizations do to streamline their processes and reduce waste? Here are a few steps that serve as guidelines towards streamlining processes and reducing waste.
1) Visual Work Place Organization (VWO): It is a 5-step process towards creating an organized and safe work environment that results in reducing clutter and improving efficiency. They are as follows:
i) Sorting – Segregate the unnecessary from the necessary equipment. Remove equipment that is not required. Take stock of the situationfrequently to ensure there are no unnecessary tools as this saves space.
ii) Cleanliness – Neatly labeled equipment helps de-clutter the workplace. Organize equipment based on its frequency of need and usage. Equipment should have its designated space so that it is easily retrievable. This minimizes search time.
iii) Maintenance –Regularly inspect equipment for mal- functioning and ensure corrective action is taken without delay.
iv) Standardization – There should be set procedures and work instructions, clearly specifying processes to be followed by employees. This helps in achieving higher productivity and better quality. It also results in less wastage of time.
v) Training & Discipline – Implement workplace training and discipline where employees are trained to achieve perfection right at the first time, thereby reducing wastage of man hours and material.
2) Value Stream Mapping (VSM): VSM is a method used to find out at one glance the processes involved for a product to be delivered to the customer. It is a flow chart where one can get a overall view about how the materials are handled and information is passed on to produce the final product across the Value Adding Processess. Since it depicts all Value Added and Non-Value Added processes, it is easy to identify any business or manufacturing wastage. Wastages in an organization could be due to over production, excess inventory, inappropriate transportation, non-value added processing, defects in the machinery, underutilizing human resources etc. Take stock of the above and identify which of the areas need to be rectified or where corrective actions need to be taken.
3) Kaizen Events or Kaizen Blitz: Kaizen in Japanese means ‘improvement’ or change for better. It is a process that guides people to experiment at their work place using scientific methods and identify and eliminate waste in business processes. The Toyota Production System (TPS) is well-known for its implementation of Kaizen principle. As per the system, in case the line personnel find any abnormality, they stop the moving production line. The supervisor is consulted and they work towards a solution so that the abnormality that is found can be rectified. This could result in the initiation of a Kaizen. Companies can organize Kaizen events where there are focused, intense short-term projects that aim to improve a process.
4) Human Resources Development: All the stakeholders who are responsible for implementing an organization’s lean philosophy should be appropriately trained so that they supervise and guide the production workers to ensure that Lean principles and practices are followed in accordance with the organizational policy. Finally, any system needs to have accountability. Therefore, organizations need to develop a system wherein expectations from each individual, group and the company as a whole in terms of performance should be clearly laid out. This helps in evaluating the performance with respect to expectations, and individuals who meet the expectations can be suitably rewarded.
Streamlining processes and reducing waste helps organizations reduce expenditure. With adequate checks and balances, the end-to-end process can be improved in sync with the overall objectives of the organization and the requirements of the customer. Only then will organizations achieve sustainable and marked improvements to their bottom line.