This Waste is about saving a few seconds per process, then multiplying that by the thousands of processes you do in a given period. It’s incremental, highly detail-oriented, and adds up quickly.

The Invisible Waste:

We’re used to looking for movement and action, waiting is often invisible because it’s the lack of either; it’s inaction that’s often built into the fabric of our everyday processes. If you’re not explicitly watching for Waiting Waste, your eyes will look right through it.

Much like Motion, the more times you repeat a process, the more valuable it is to tighten it by a minute, or even a few seconds. Start with your most repeated processes first and look specifically for Waiting Wastes (otherwise, you’ll miss them).

Waiting within Process:

Waiting in Manufacturing - Girl waiting on factory floorThis is rampant on most production floors. No matter the product, every step in the manufacturing process builds cumulatively on the steps before, often incorporating more materials to add value. If the materials aren’t available, the process stops. Then, every step after it stops. The earlier in the process it happens, the more disruptive it tends to be.

Often it happens when an earlier process is faster than a subsequent one, causing a backlog. This can be the hardest to spot, especially if you have good people.

Faced with waiting, a strong employee won’t just stand there. He or she will get busy. If you’re walking by, you won’t notice irregularities because everyone is moving and working, but “busy work” isn’t productive, and it’s not sustainable. Change can’t come from your office chair. You need to learn the processes intimately and your staff must trust you enough to feel empowered to speak up when they have nothing to do. Once you know about the in-process Wastes, it’s often easy to shift timings around to fill them.

Waiting for Materials:

Fixing a Deadly Waste is like taking a pill: sometimes there are side effects. If you’re suffering from rampant over-inventory of raw materials, you’re probably never stuck waiting for it. If you trim that Waste and stay close to the rocks, it becomes a game of polishing logistics.

Lean manufacturing has very little raw material at hand. If a shipment is late, backordered, shipwrecked, etc., your entire production could halt. This has become a stumbling block for some Lean companies, including Toyota itself, but is all a part of the learning process and shouldn’t be feared.

Machine Downtime:

worker fixing gearWe’ve all been there and it’s infuriating. It reminds us that while we can trim some expenses, maintenance can’t be one of them.

Whether it’s a fleet of trucks or a lathe, invest the money to put your critical equipment on a regular, and arguably generous, maintenance schedule. At first, it may seem like a good idea to cut the mechanic without notice, but when forklifts fail and people are dismantling pallets to carry goods by hand, Waste adds up fast.

Regular maintenance also extends equipment life. Once a vehicle or machine is purchased, it is almost immediately written off, so the longer it lasts, the better.