The 8 Wastes of Lean: Part 7 – Defects

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Broken products, systems that don’t work, services that don’t meet requirements – a Defect is a waste that occurs when the value a customer expects is not delivered. There are some key ways to identify and reduce this type of waste, but the main thing to remember is true for all of the 8 Wastes: know your customer’s expectations and provide the value they need.

Read on to find more with part seven of our 8 Wastes series: Defects.

A Defect is not necessarily a broken object or system, but simply one that doesn’t meet its required use. This could be as simple as something not being the right colour – if it’s not what the customer expected, it’s not good enough.

Defects can be relatively easy to identify when compared with some of the other 8 Wastes. They may be very obvious – you might have a batch of broken, unusable items due to a fault in a machine. Other defects that may slip through initially can be identified through customer feedback or complaints. The biggest things to identify are repeated errors – be sure to look for patterns that indicate a larger problem.

Defects can be relatively easy to identify when compared with some of the other 8 Wastes. They may be very obvious – you might have a batch of broken, unusable items due to a fault in a machine. Other defects that may slip through initially can be identified through customer feedback or complaints. The biggest things to identify are repeated errors – be sure to look for patterns that indicate a larger problem.

Consequences of Defects include:

  • Loss of profits
  • Damaged brand reputation
  • Time wasted on replacements
  • Increased physical waste.

Problems relating to Defects usually require a quick fix – or a “band-aid” solution. It’s important to resolve an issue as quickly as possible, but the trouble with this is the problem is likely to come up again. To avoid this, you need to find the root cause.

You’ll need to replace any faulty items so a customer is not left without, but once this is done, look at why the defect occurred. There may be an underlying problem that caused the defect – and if this is the case, the same issue will come up again.

A useful tool to find a root cause is to ask “Why?” five times. This helps to get deeper into the problem to identify the true issue.
The example below shows the many layers to a problem. In this case, baking more pastries may be an immediate fix, but the problem will keep reoccurring. Fixing the window will work – until it breaks again. Only when the root cause is found and addressed will the problem cease completely.

So, remember to look out for different types of Defects, and for recurring problems. Always take the time to seek out the root cause, as otherwise the Defect will keep occurring, and will take more time and effort to fix again.

The best way to prevent Defects is to understand what the customer wants right from the start. Find out what the customer needs exactly and then deliver on that. Get it right the first time, and there will be no waste.

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