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8 wastes of lean and how to eliminate waste with wearable devices

What are the 8 wastes of lean manufacturing? The reduction of waste is the main idea of lean manufacturing. But what exactly is waste? Waste can take many forms, but at the core, it is anything that does not add value from the perspective of a customer. The following article summarises the 8 wastes of lean manufacturing and provides actionable insights about how to eliminate waste with wearable devices.8 wastes of lean manufacturingAn often used acronym for the 8 wastes of lean manufacturing is DOWNTIME which stands for: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Not utilising talent, Transportation, Inventory excess, Motion waste, Excess processingThe AI revolution forms a paradigm shift for manufacturing. Most factory automation processes of the past were based on a rules-based approach, e.g. robotics programming with fixed set of scenarios and workflows which were top-down planned in ERP or MES systems. The downsides: very little flexibility in case of unexpected situations, huge efforts to prepare systems for high variance / low volume type of production.

#1 Defects

Defects are mistakes which need additional resources, time and money to remedy the situation. In manufacturing operations, defects may include broken components that need to be rebuilt. Complete elimination of all defects is not possible, but defects can be limited by applying stricter quality control and documentation procedures such as standard work instructions or checklists.

Root causes for defects usually include:

  • The lack of sufficient quality control processes
  • Missing repair and documentation standards
  • Undocumented design changes
  • Misunderstood customer requirements

# 2 Overproduction

Overproduction typically occurs when workers continue to produce blindly, even if the output cannot be processed because receivers are not ready or do not need the output at the given point of time. The remedy to overproduction is better planning and work coordination.

The implementation of standard procedures for each process is needed. Bottlenecks in the process sequence should be removed and measures to improve the transparency of the entire production process should be implemented. Overproduction ties up a considerable amount of working capital and must not be accepted.

Root causes for overproduction usually include:

  • Just-in-case production
  • Weak planning
  • Long-setup and machine changeover times

#3 Waiting

Waiting times happen whenever the work has to be interrupted. Reasons include but are not limited to missing materials, waiting for approval to proceed work or because of machine downtimes. Waiting times occur if workers have to wait until a bottleneck is removed. Providing better tools for communication is a means to remedy waiting times. This allows better coordination and more flexible operational processes, e.g. by allowing ad-hoc requests such as ad-hoc material replenishment or approval requests.

Root causes for waiting times can be:

  • Unplanned machine downtime
  • Long set-up and machine changeover times
  • Inadequate staffing
  • Absence from work
  • Poor planning and process documentation
  • Lack of communication tools

#4 Not-Utilising Talent

Although this waste is not one of the original seven wastes of the Toyota Production System, not-utilising talent is increasingly being seen as waste today. Insufficiently used talents, abilities and knowledge of people has tremendous impact on any organisation. For manufacturing operations, great benefits can be reaped by including skilled workers and their improvements ideas at any level.

Not-utilizing talents directly impacts employee motivation and engagement. This has direct impact on productivity. Solutions for empowering the employees include to avoid micro-management, improve training and implement processes and tools for direct employee feedback, e.g. by collecting ideas for continuous improvement measures.

Not-utilizing talent typically occurs with:

  • Assign employees to wrong tasks
  • Tedious administrative work
  • Lack of communication and communication tools
  • Poor management
  • Inadequate training
  • Missing teamwork

#5 Transportation

Transportation waste arises when you move things from A to B. Transportation increases costs, needs time and may result in product damage. Transport waste can easily be reduced by reorganizing the physical layouts and process simplification. The goal should be a less frequent handling of products with the shortest possible distances between process steps.

Transportion waste is based on the following root causes:

  • Poor factory layout
  • Poor process planning with unnecessary steps
  • Wrongly aligned process flow
  • Insufficient communication tools

#6 Inventory Excess

Inventory excess waste happens when the supply exceeds the real customer demand.

Root causes include:

  • Overproduction
  • Buffer exceeds need
  • Lack of proper monitoring systems
  • Production speed not aligned to demand
  • Suppliers are not reliable
  • Long set-up times

#7 Motion Waste

Motion waste results from movement that does not add value to the goods produced. The rearrangement of workstation layouts to reduce the distances has a huge impact on the reduction of motion waste. In addition, proper procedures for the sharing of tools and machines should be implemented. The usage of mobile devices for data collection and tasks fulfillment also decreases motion waste.

Root causes for motion waste include:

  • Poor factory and production line layout
  • Sharing of machines and tools
  • Processes are not aligned and result in motion overhead
  • Work standards are not in place

#8 Exceed Processing

Excess processing happens when work processes are poorly designed or not documented properly. This results in inefficiencies such as multiple versions of the same task, e.g. several signatures, polishing components that do not require it, entering duplicated data or processing more goods than required. To overcome overprocessing, standardizing processes is key. This should include the reduction of unneeded process steps such as unnecessary documentation, approvals and meetings.

Root causes include:

  • Poorly designed processes
  • Lack of standards
  • Lack of communication and proper communication tools
  • Human error

How to eliminate waste efficiently?

The systematic elimination of the 8 wastes of lean results in increased productivity, faster processes, higher quality and lower costs. At the same time, employee engagement will rise. Typical Lean manufacturing approaches to reduce the 8 wastes of lean include Kanban, SMED, Kaizen, 5S, Standard Work etc.

In addition, the use of digital technologies such as wearable devices boosts the setup of procedures to reduce waste. The elimination of the 8 wastes of lean will be much easier when data about the entire production process is available and employees can engage with production data in real-time.

Using an industrial smartwatch allows exactly this: employees can collect data directly from the field e.g. by using app-based workflows. Access to kanban dashboards and the ability to alert operators on the wrist in real-time eases employee engagement. A solution such as the WORKERBASE industrial smartwatch is a lightweight wearable device. It allow the implementation of lean manufacturing tools for waste elimination in short time.

How to start?

We propose a very pragmatic approach to come up with countermeasures to reduce the 8 wastes of lean. First step is to brainstorm a list of potential countermeasures, followed by the prioritisation and selection of measures to be implemented. We recommend to use digital tools to implement the measures efficiently.

Step 1: List of potential countermeasures

The following is a non-comprehensive list of potential countermeasures to eliminate waste. We recommend to use this as a starting point and add appropriate measures as needed.

1. Defects

Standard work: Implement standard work instructions

Poka-Yoke: Design processes so they are less likely to produce defects

Jidoka: Foster the detection of abnormalities and immediate correction

2. Overproduction

Kanban: Implement a kanban system to organise your production process

Takt time: Match the rate of manufacturing to the rate of customer demand

SMED: Reduce setup times to allow the efficient production of smaller batches

3. Waiting

Continuous flow: Design a continuous flow system and minimise buffers between steps in production

Standard work: Implement standard work instructions for a consistent work sequence

4. Not-Utilising Talent

Standard work: Invite employees to provide feedback on standard-work instructions

5. Transport

Value stream mapping: Create a sequential flow from raw materials to finished goods

Continuous flow: Ensure work-in-process (WIP) will not be placed into inventory

6. Inventory

Just-in-time delivery: deliver materials only when they are needed

Continuous flow: Reduce or eliminate buffers, e.g. by ad-hoc replenishment orders

7. Motion

5S: Ensure that work stations are well organised

Value stream mapping: Evaluate alternatives for tools and equipment to reduce motion, e.g. alternate arrangements, wearable devices

8. Exceed processing

Standard work: Document and work through standard-work instructions

Kaizen: Evaluate potential process changes to simplify manufacturing operations

Step 2: Prioritization and selection of measures

It is crucial to not tackle all challenges at once.  Instead, we recommend to start with one specific waste. Once the first measures have been implemented successfully, you can proceed to add further measures. To get the buy-in from all relevant people, please involve topic owners and key experts from early on. The team members for an improvement project should include people from the targeted improvement area, along with other stakeholders. This may include internal customers of the results.

Step 3: Implementation of measures

We recommend to use digital tools to implement selected measures. A platform such as the WORKERBASE system allows to come up with customised apps very quickly. Apps to reduce waste can be configured in a web browser by combining different screen types. Please contact us to explore how to do that.

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