Two years ago when my heat pump went bad, my local air conditioning contractor suggested that I purchase the highest SEER rating (efficiency rating) available, even though the initial investment was a little more. To my surprise, the new heat pump was efficient enough that my monthly electric bill dropped by 25 percent. I eliminated waste and had the fun of banking the savings from my investment! I am certain that many of you are also looking for ways to eliminate waste in your personal lives in this current economy. Now here is the big question: How is it that so many of us are trying to eliminate the waste in our personal situations, while we can go to work each day and observe so much waste in our work environment without doing something about it?

This is especially true in the manufacturing environment. One of the most common reasons we find for not eliminating waste is that many people simply don’t know where to start or how to effectively find and eliminate waste, and often the payoff or return for the effort of eliminating waste is not understood at all levels. You must have a plan to succeed.

1) Know the return on investment and share it. As leaders and managers, we cannot simply tell our people to go find the waste and get rid of it. Where is the fun in that? They need to understand the value to the company and themselves in finding and eliminating waste, which provides on one side the challenge to find the waste, and ultimately the fun and satisfaction of seeing the tangible results of eliminating the waste and creating more efficiency and profit in processes.

2) Get the team together and set the stage. People must be trained in what to look for, how to look for it, what to do with it, and how to effectively ensure that the waste is permanently eliminated. Running a simulation of waste elimination in a controlled environment works very well at establishing rules and expectations before you turn the team loose on the manufacturing floor. (My colleague Joe Mikes uses an interesting and fun exercise called the “Waste Elimination Game”, which is designed to train an organization in finding and eliminating waste.)

3) Back to basics. The best starting point for a waste elimination game is where you first started. Knock the dust off your original process value stream map and validate that you still do business the same way that you started. Chances are that you’ve modified the value stream over the years and became less efficient or created more waste as a result. Keep in mind that the waste you identify may not be something you can touch. Non-value-added time is often the biggest waste in a manufacturing process.

4) Develop a plan to implement the change required to eliminate the waste identified. Determine what is to be done, when it will be done, and who will do it.

5) Measure, measure, measure! You cannot improve that which is not measured. Develop meaningful metrics to help you see success when it happens. If you can plot and see it on a graph, the response from your team is immediate and self-fulfilling. It will also create a “pull” from other areas to start this “waste removal” game throughout the facility.

Eliminating waste in manufacturing should not be a “chore” to everyone in the facility. Approached properly, the exercise of eliminating waste is an exciting and fun challenge in which everyone – company, employees and customers – wins in the end.

About the author:
Bob Call is a principal consultant with Life Cycle Engineering Inc. Bob has more than 25 years of experience in maintenance and reliability, with a strong background in reliability process development and implementation. He has helped many organizations transform their business and culture into a proactive and continuously improving operation, ensuring sustainability and increased market competitiveness. Contact Bob at bcall@lce.com. For more information about LCE, visit www.LCE.com or call 843-744-7110.