Eliminating Process Waste Begins With How You Define Work

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in Continuous Improvement, Efficiency, Lean, Process Improvement | 0 comments

Work is defined by Merriam-Webster as any activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.  Many people go to work everyday to make something or provide a service in order to make a living.  We all expect to get paid for the things we make or the service we provide.  But how much of what we do everyday is real work and not just the appearance of being busy?  Much of our day is spent picking something up, putting something down, laying one thing on top of another, looking for something, answering emails, waiting for a phone call, getting signatures, etc.  We all feel uncomfortable when we have nothing to do at our workplace and therefore we engage in unnecessary motions.

A better definition of work is that which enhances the value in a product or service.  Value-added work is where all the unnecessary motions and wastes are eliminated from making the product or providing the service.  It is where the work flows from one process step to another without interruption.  When organizations are able to eliminate waste and improve flow, great things begin to happen.  They provide their products and services easier and much quicker, errors and defects are reduced or eliminated, work-in-process (WIP) and inventories shrink, employees and customers are much happier, and costs shrink and profits improve.

So what’s important and what isn’t?  There’s a saying in Lean, “Eyes for flow, eyes for waste.”  Employees, supervisors, and managers need be able to identify and eliminate waste in their processes and recognize opportunities to improve flow.  The techniques are simple, easy to understand, and can be implemented in a matter of days.

Everyone wants to do a good job and feel like they have accomplished something important for the organization.  Employees need to be given the opportunity to serve their company by working effectively.  Their sense of value cannot be satisfied unless they know they are doing something worthwhile. 


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