Don’t Get Hung-Up In The Waiting Game

Posted by on Apr 7, 2019 in Continuous Improvement, Lean, Process Improvement | 0 comments

Waiting is a big part of our normal daily lives and something we typically take for granted.  We wait for our first cup of coffee in the morning; we wait at traffic lights on our way to work; we wait for people to show up for a meeting to start; we wait in doctor’s offices; we wait for the end of the day so we can leave work; we wait in checkout lines at the grocery store; and some of us even wait to use the bathroom!

Waiting is one of the seven deadly wastes defined by Taichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System.  Examples of waiting waste in our work lives include:

  • people waiting on material, equipment, suppliers and information
  • long equipment changeovers
  • batch processing
  • waiting on a telephone call or an email
  • waiting for approvals
  • employees waiting for directions on what to do or a decision to be made
  • unnecessary movement of materials
  • late vendor deliveries
  • recruiting, hiring and on-boarding of new employees

The causes of waiting waste can include:

  • unevenness in process flow
  • unreliable processes that continually breakdown or make defective product
  • micro-managing employees and not allowing decisions to be made at the appropriate level
  • unnecessary multiple levels of approval
  • inefficient HR processes for recruiting, hiring, and on-boarding
  • culture with no-sense-of-urgency

As you can image, the cost associated with waiting can be tremendous.  The time wasted waiting is non-value-add, which your customer isn’t going to pay for, but costs you dearly in employee wages and potential overtime hours.  In addition, the customer gets upset when they continually have to wait for delivery of products or services.  How often have you called a repair service where they gave you a time window of three to four hours for the person to show up?  You wait patiently for them but they never come.  They don’t even give you the courtesy of a phone call!  You get so frustrated, so you cancel the service just to have it happen again by a different provider.

So, what can you do to reduce or eliminate the waste of waiting?  Here are some ideas:

  • Balance your production processes and work to make your processes flow.  Understand where your production bottlenecks occur and adjust your resources appropriately.
  • Work to improve machine and equipment uptime.  What should employees do daily to maintain equipment? Implement total productive maintenance (TPM).
  • Reduce work-in-process (WIP) inventory and continually work to reduce batch sizes.  Try to get as close to one-piece flow as you can.
  • See if you can change your process layout to group machines or tasks together that make a product or provide a service to create flow.
  • Implement standard work or work instructions so that employees know exactly what to do and can make decisions needed to perform their function.
  • Implement visual controls so work becomes obvious and waiting gets noticed.  Andon lights can be used to indicate if there is a breakdown or production delay so that immediate attention can be given to fix the problem.  Status boards can be installed on or near equipment to show the hourly rate and the actual produced that hour.  Any problem that occurs can be documented and action taken to promptly correct it.
  • Meeting agendas should be strictly adhered to so that meetings start and end on time.

Everyone’s time is valuable and we only have so much of it everyday.  It’s a pity to let others squander it for us and feel like we’re trapped and can’t do anything about it!


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