One of the biggest challenges in eliminating waste is even identifying it. In Lean Manufacturing theory, waste is any part of your business or manufacturing process that fails to produce something that your customers pay for. Sometimes, indentifying this means singling out parts of your manufacturing process that you may be very attached to. In some cases, procedures ascend to the levels of corporate traditions and, sometimes, these traditions aren’t efficient. Objectively examining such processes means taking a look at them without any preconceived notions or prejudices toward their value or importance to the company.
In some cases, waste is generated right at the work station. One of the most successful incarnations of the Japanese management style is the 5S concept. This centers on providing a standardized, organized and optimized workspace for your employees. Each tool has its rightful place and each workstation is cleaned at the end of each shift, the tools put away and that workstation prepared for the new shift. These small changes not only vastly increase the level of efficiency at your business, but also provide employees with the right tools to do their job in the most productive way possible.
Waste cannot be allowed to hide behind traditions. There may be processes in place that do nothing to increase your company’s productivity and, in some cases, they may actually make it harder for employees to do their jobs as they should. Identifying and eliminating these sources of waste is sometimes a difficult process and is oftentimes more easily done with a consultant from outside the company. A pair of fresh eyes and someone with training in making a company as efficient as it can be are both important assets for any company looking to make its processes more efficient and much more profitable.