The 8 Wastes of Lean: Part 6 – Over Processing

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Reducing the waste of Over Processing is a key part of any Lean journey. But why is it so important?

If your processes aren’t efficient and always improving, you’ll slow down. Take the time to improve, and to focus on the process, and your business will grow. This month, we’ve worked with our Continuous Improvement Manager, Brad Jeavons, to bring you advice on how to remove Over Processing in your own workplace.

Every business’s day-to-day operations are a series of processes leading to one end goal: to provide value to the customer. Each task is made up of a series of steps, which should add value to the end product or service, and increase the customer value. Where a process includes steps which add no extra value to the end result, there’s a problem with Over Processing.

“It is important to formalise the new process. This will ensure all staff are familiar with the new method, and helpstandardise the process to maintain the improvement.”

The easiest way to identify Over Processing in any business is to pick a task, run through it step by step, and note any stage that does not increase the product’s value.

If you are unsure whether a step is adding value, ask yourself whether a customer would be willing to pay for that extra step. If the answer is no, that step can go.

Once the waste has been identified, you can begin to reduce it. In some cases, you may be able to simply stop doing a step. In other cases, this may require some reorganisation of other parts of the process. Often, the front line workers are in the best position to determine whether something is adding to a process or not, as they have run through that particular process more than anyone else. They may be your best asset in identifying Over Processing.

If steps are cut, it is important to formalise the new process. This will ensure all staff are familiar with the new method, and help standardise the process to maintain the improvement. This is particularly important in larger teams, or where teams operate across different locations.

Real World Success:

A great real-world example of reducing Over Processing is Walmart’s introduction of cross-docking into their supply chain*. Since the introduction of cross-docking, goods arrive at the distribution centres and are sorted, re-packaged, and sent out straight to the stores, without being booked in first. This eliminates a major step in the process, saving a lot of time and effort across their operations, as well as inventory and transport costs. The end result is the same as far as the customer can see – the extra step of booking in and storing stock adds no value.

To apply this aspect of Lean thinking in your own business,

  • First take a look at some of your processes and pick a target area to focus on
  • Run through the process step by step
  • Identify steps that are adding no value to your end product or service
  • Remove those steps or reorganise the process to eliminate them
  • Formalisethe process and standardise it across your business
  • Regularly check the process to maintain the standards, and to look for new improvements

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