W. Edwards Deming, the father of continuous quality improvement or TQM, defined waste as any action, expense, work that does not add value to the final product (value being defined in the minds of the customer).
Process Waste – How to Find It and Fix It
So, what are the varieties of waste? First is rework, which is having to do something over because it was not done properly the first time. Another is duplication, i.e., doing the same step twice. In Process Advantage®, the PGS approach to process improvement, we also look for any additional factors that slow down a process and identify them as waste. We call these “rubs” because they are like friction in a machine, slowing it down. Rubs can include waiting for decisions, variations in how employees execute a process, waiting for supplies, technology breakdowns, etc.
Deming said he had never encountered a process that had less than 20% waste. Our experience is more like 50% when you apply the strict criteria for waste that Deming employed.
Finding and fixing waste
How to find waste? Just ask those employees currently engaged in the process, and they will tell you. The system or process slows them down considerably. You may question, “Why would employees blow the whistle on themselves, pointing out that they are not producing optimally?”. Well, because they are usually not the architects of the system. So, they are not blowing the whistle on themselves, they are blowing the whistle on the system management defined for them. Ask them, and then give them the tools to fix the process and redesign it as a friction-free process. They can do that. Ask them to implement, they can also do that. Ask them to define innovations that go beyond simply eliminating waste, done.