The 8 Wastes of Lean: Part 4 – Waiting

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The fourth part of our series exploring the 8 Wastes of Lean is one of the more easily-identified wastes: Waiting. There are many points along any process where time is wasted Waiting for something to happen. This could be due to a lack of raw materials, packing tape or cardboard boxes; or other packaging supplies, broken machinery, delays throughout a process, or unbalanced workloads in the process. Once these sources of Waiting have been identified and remedied, it is possible to obtain much higher levels of efficiency and production.

Learn more with Signet’s top tips on the fourth of the 8 Wastes of Lean: Waiting.

A lack of raw materials

The first source of Waiting in any process or production line is a lack of raw materials. Raw materials are those materials that are necessary in the production of a particular product.

Examples of raw materials:

  • Meat
  • Timber
  • Iron ore
  • Chemicals
  • Fabrics

If a company does not have what it needs to complete its task, the process cannot continue until these materials arrive. This means that the entire production line is Waiting on their arrival, which is a significant source of waste that could be avoided.

Broken machinery

If a machine that is crucial to production breaks down, the entire process breaks down with it. For example, if the machine that tapes packaging boxes at the end of production stops running, the entire production line up to that point often cannot continue until the machine is fixed.

Delays throughout a process

One of the biggest culprits when it comes to Waiting is the time spent between stages of a process, particularly when work is being passed from one person to another. Waiting on emails, approvals, changes to be made to a project, transport, or simply Waiting for someone else to complete their portion of a task can cause immense amounts of wasted time.

Unbalanced workloads

Unbalanced workloads can occur across all industries, from construction sites to restaurants. For example, a simple production line for packaging has two stations: station 1 and station 2. The employee at station 1 takes 45 seconds to complete their task. The employee at station 2 takes 30 seconds to complete their task. This means that the person at station 2 will be waiting for 15 seconds for the items and packaging to arrive from station 1 every time they complete their task. Such processes can lead to immense amounts of Waiting.

So, how can you combat Waiting?

For a lack of raw materials, simply use an inventory monitoring system that re-orders supplies when they are low, not when they have already been depleted.

Conduct regular inspections and maintenance on any crucial machinery, so as to avoid them breaking down for extended periods of time.

If you are Waiting between stages of a process, completing other tasks around the workplace, such as paperwork or packing boxes means the time isn’t wasted. Rearranging steps of a task so that jobs can be completed by different teams simultaneously can also reduce Waiting time.

To solve unbalanced workloads, investigate the timing of all tasks in your process, and attempt to redistribute longer tasks amongst multiple workers, or allocate more difficult tasks to workers that are more likely to complete them rapidly.

In every industry, there is likely to be some level of Waiting. However, by identifying the sources of this waste and combating them using the tips above, your company can reduce Waiting times and increase profits as a result.

Our Lean tips will continue next month, so check back in to learn more about how to reduce Overproduction waste in your business using Lean principles.

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