Eliminating Common Manufacturing Wastes

The manufacturing industry is very competitive. If you are not constantly trying to find ways to improve the products you make, or produce them at a lower cost, your competition will quickly overtake you. This is why most companies put in so much effort toward continuous improvement. One of the best things that can be done in this area is to eliminate various forms of waste. Understanding the different types of waste, how to identify them, and the best way to have them eliminated will help ensure you remain competitive long into the future.

Identifying Types of Waste

Whenever you are working to eliminate waste in your facility, the first thing you need to do is identify where it currently exists. All facilities have some type of waste present and if you can pinpoint what it is, you will be able to come up with a plan of action that can help you to get rid of it.

One of the most effective ways to identify and eliminate waste in the facility is by using a system known as Lean Manufacturing. This was a system developed for the Toyota Production System and has the goal of operating a facility as efficiently as possible. Within this strategy there is an acronym used to remember various types of waste to watch out for. The acronym is “DOWNTIME,” which stands for defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and excessive processing. Learning more about lean manufacturing in general and the DOWNTIME acronym is a great place to start when trying to eliminate waste.

Tips for Finding Waste

Once you and your team understand the various types of waste, you will need to find it within your facility. There are many different ways that you can identify waste in your facility, including the following:

  • Gemba Walks – Gemba walks have managers spend time on the shop floor where work is done. Taking the time to actually watch how work is being performed is often going to help leaders to discover various types of waste.
  • Seek Input from Front Line Workers – There is nobody in the facility that is going to have a better idea of the types of waste that exists than the front-line workers. Ask them to report any inefficiencies or other wasteful efforts that they are aware of so that you can investigate ways to eliminate it.
  • Investigate Problems – Anytime there is a problem on the production line, make sure you investigate it to find the root cause. In most situations, the root cause of a production stoppage is going to be the source of some type of waste.

The goal with all of these things is to simply identify every form of waste that you can find. Even if you do not have a way to eliminate the waste right away, it is an important step to just identify it so that you can analyze the situation and come up with ideas for eliminating the waste down the road.

Implementing Changes to Eliminate Waste

Once you have a list of different forms of waste that exist in your facility, you will need to come up with a plan of action on how to eliminate it. There are many different options when it comes to taking action to eliminate specific types of waste. Some of the most effective options include the following:

  • Changing Process – One of the most common ways to eliminate waste in manufacturing is by changing a process on how something is done. The specifics will vary greatly from situation to situation, but anytime you can make a change to how something is done in order to eliminate waste, you will be benefitting.
  • Adjusting the Products – Sometimes it is necessary to change the actual products that you are making. If your end customers will not pay for a feature, for example, then you should not be adding it. Spending time and materials on a feature that customers do not demand is known as overproduction and is a common form of waste.
  • Provide Training – Employees generally want to do things properly and efficiently, but often do not have the training they need. In many situations, proper training can help to dramatically reduce waste.
  • Rearrange Machinery – If you have a lot of excess motion in your production line, look into rearranging the machinery to be more efficient. This can be a significant undertaking upfront, but it will eliminate a lot of waste for years to come.

Of course, there are many other things that you can do to eliminate waste. Taking the time to look into all of your options will help you to get the results you are looking for.

Harness Continuous Improvement

Once you have identified waste and taken steps to eliminate it, you will want to go back and reevaluate the situation to see if you are getting the results you desire. In many cases, taking steps to eliminate one type of waste can actually help to expose another type of waste. Taking the time to look at processes after they are updated will often give you the opportunity to further improve the way things are done, which can go a long way toward eliminating even more waste.

For example, if you found that there was a problem with one machine in your production line that would make some type of defect on 1% of the parts it produced, you can take steps to fix that problem. Once the issue is fixed and those defects are eliminated, you can go back to look more closely at that process to see if there are other forms of waste present. You may find that even when this process is not making defects, it is producing excess inventory that then needs to be stored until it is used.

Using continuous improvement strategies you can be constantly making small (and large) changes to find and eliminate waste. Even things that only provide small incremental improvements to your manufacturing process will add up to helping you to remain as competitive as possible.

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