Waste Not, Want Not – Where To Look For Process Efficiencies

When you are working with a team to streamline processes, it is helpful to give them some places to look.  Here is a great tool that will work across any process in service or manufacturing.  I sometimes post these on the wall of the room of a project team.

Enter Tim Woods, a rather innocuous sounding name, but one that is guaranteed to help you out.  But his name is an acronym for the 8 types of waste to look for.  I am going to focus on the service industry today.

Transportation – each handoff in a process increases the risk of something going wrong, like the request being forgotten, or a specimen being lost.  For more on this, see my previous post about handoffs.

Inventory – any material that is not currently being used is inventory.  Some is necessary to have on hand, but the more you have, the greater the risk of it spoiling, becoming obsolete, and generally getting in the way of the things you really need.

Motion – this is movement of employees to get from one place to another.  Things like staff that are constantly going back and forth from different units, or having to travel to pick up and receive work.

Waiting – this is any time in a process where nothing productive is happening.  If you have ever sat in an ER waiting room, you know what this is.  This includes customers/patients and staff.  Waiting for lab or back office work to be completed affects everyone.

Over-processing – is when the work done is not valued by the customer or doing it sooner than then need.  A generic example is extra diagnostic tests.  Another is trying to interest a customer in a product before they have a need for it.

Over-production – when more work than necessary is done, this adds cost to the process. Things like features on checking accounts you never use, lab draws that are unnecessary, or even mailing letters to people in addition to email.

Defects – these are mistakes.  These lead to rework, meaning fixing accounts, new lab draws, corrective procedures.  These are worse than whatever a simple defect was because the mean people have to go outside of the efficient process to fix them, leading to any and all of the other forms of waste.

Staff – this is not a tradition form of waste, but one that is incorporated into many systems now.  Simple put, these are people who are underutilized, either mentally or physically.  In my experience, it is mostly the former.  Usually, they have just stopped sharing their ideas on how to do things better.  This can be the hardest to recognize, but the most rewarding to address, for both the staff and the organization.

Train your teams to look for these and you will make progress in Hour 1!

For more information on these topics, you can go to Wikipedia to research “Muda”, a Japanese word meaning “futility; uselessness; wastefulness”

I also got useful examples from 8 Types of Waste in Healthcare.

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