How a Waste Walk Can Benefit Your Business

Messy workbench

Is this what your workplace looks like?

Think there is waste present?

Can it be improved?

Do you have waste in your operations/processes? Chances are you do, but do you have a standard method of uncovering the waste and turning the discovery into actionable opportunities for removal of that waste?

Waste = anything and everything that does not add value to your product or service provided, from the prospective of your customer. These wastes can be discovered applying the Value Adding test and/or are defined under eight wastes categories, both shown below.

Lean principles state that to fix a problem you must first see the waste. The longer you have worked in a system, the harder it is to see the waste around you. Taking a “waste walk” is one way to make the waste visible again. A waste walk is a planned visit to where work is being performed to observe what’s happening and to note the waste.

First to conduct a waste walk you need a few prerequisites.

  1. You need to know what waste looks like. Applying the definition above is a good start but we can also default to the eight wastes of lean as listed below.
    • Defects (rework & scrap – doing the same job more than once)
    • Overproduction (making more product than needed at that time)
    • Waiting (delays caused by shortages, approvals, or data needs)
    • Non-utilized Resources/Talent (employee abilities that are not utilized)
    • Transportation (moving items from one place to another)
    • Inventory (items/paperwork/information waiting to be processed)
    • Motion (excess personal movement and/or poor ergonomics)
    • Excess Processing (adding more than the customer needs)

    You can also apply the test below to see if the activity you are observing is Customer Value Adding, CVA. If it is, keep doing it and maybe spread its use. If it’s not CVA it’s considered waste. However Non-Value Adding, NVA, is classified into two categories. The first is Business Value Adding BVA, if it is this, see if it can be improved, and if it’s Non-Value Adding, eliminate it.

    Flow chart graphic

  2. You need a standard guidance methodology to document the waste as you find it.
  3. You need the resources to remove the waste you discover. Just finding and documenting the waste is a waste of your time unless you fix the problems!

You will find a standard form downloadable checklist. Take the time needed to conduct the waste walk in your facility, see what you find that can be improved.

By Tom Zbell, Project Manager, GENEDGE

Strategic Business Management
Product & Process Development