How to Cut Seven Non-Traditional Wastes

In my first column for Inbound Logistics in 2012, I covered the seven traditional wastes identified in Lean thinking: Transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over-processing, and defects, more commonly known by the acronym TIM WOOD.

But there are other wastes to consider in your supply chain and logistics functions. Let’s examine the following seven non-traditional wastes as identified in End-to-End Lean Management: A Guide to Complete Supply Chain Improvement, by Robert Trent.

  1. Too many bits and bytes. The digital age produces less paper—at least in theory. However, technology advances guarantee plenty of data to go around. It is important to understand the difference between data and useful information. You can waste a lot of valuable time culling through useless information, such as emails, reports, and analyses.
  2. Untapped creativity. People often take the path of least resistance, but that’s not usually the optimal route. Creative skills take time to develop, but organizations can do their part by establishing a culture of Lean thinking, which includes training, support, and a motivational reward system.
  3. Poor measurement. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. In terms of Lean, build your organization’s supply chain function to support overall strategies, which can range from responsive to low cost, each strategy having its own type of metrics.In today’s world, it is easier to gather measurements through technology solutions, aided by bar-code scanning and RFID. But make sure you measure, compare, and benchmark the right things. One source of standardized supply chain metrics is the Supply Chain Operations Resource model, which features more than 150 individual measurements.

  4. Excessive overhead. The financial impact of an inefficient supply chain goes right to the bottom line. This can be a result of unecessarily high inventory levels to cover variability in a process, or underutilized assets such as forklift trucks, private fleets, and distribution centers.
  5. Overdesign. Overdesign can result in the waste of overprocessing. Minimize overdesign by developing a Lean, collaborative product lifecycle management process that encompasses a product from inception to disposal of manufactured products. This strategy must also integrate people, data, processes, and business systems.
  6. Duplication of effort. Duplicated effort across sites or geographic locations means they don’t communicate and understand each other’s processes well. Value Stream Mapping is one way to visualize duplicated effort, and come up with solutions that leverage collaboration between organizations.
  7. Poor planning. Many companies do too much reacting, and not enough planning. A solid sales and operations planning process at both the grass roots and executive levels can help organizations shift the balance toward planning, while monitoring Lean performance metrics.

By focusing on adding value to the customer, you can significantly affect the financial bottom line, which is something that you must not lose sight of. As a result, identifying and eliminating all kinds of waste is a long-term battle worth fighting in today’s ultra-competitive global economy.

Parts of this column are adapted from Lean Supply Chain & Logistics Management (McGraw-Hill; 2012), Lean Retail and Wholesale (McGraw-Hill; 2014) and Supply Chain and Logistics Management Made Easy (Pearson, 2015) by Paul A. Myerson with permission from McGraw-Hill and Pearson, respectively.

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