Identifying Waste in Business Processes
To help managers identify and minimize waste, Lean Management defines eight specific types of waste that exist in manufacturing processes across all industries. Waste consumes resources, including hired labor, but fails to generate any value in return. To quote Ben Hartman, author of Lean Farming, waste is “any activity that does not add value” to the end product or customer.
Below we define the eight types of waste and illustrate each one with examples commonly seen on dairy farms. Which of these examples resonate with you? While all eight types of waste are present in most farming operations, the first four - motion, waiting, transportation, and inventory - may offer the greatest opportunity to improve labor efficiency and effectiveness on dairies.
Eight Wastes of Lean Manufacturing
Motion waste refers to any unnecessary steps or movements in the production processes that add no value. A classic example of motion waste is time spent walking around the farm to locate supplies or equipment to complete a simple task. Motion waste is ubiquitous on farms and it shows up in many routine production activities, from vehicle maintenance in the shop, to gate repair in the barn, to treatment of fresh cows and calves. Any time tools or materials are difficult to find, or stored far from the location of their use, motion waste follows.
Lean Management defines waiting as any pause or delay in production activities, when people or machines are idle. Waiting may be a response to a lack of information, such as employees waiting for directions from their supervisor. Workers may also find themselves waiting for equipment to become available, or for someone else to finish a task or get out of their way, before they can complete the next task on their list. For instance, if the feeding schedule results in gate alignments that delay cow traffic to and from the parlor, cow pushers and milkers end up waiting for the feeder to finish delivering feed.
Transportation waste refers to the unnecessary or inefficient movement of materials, equipment, or animals from one place on the farm to another. Transportation waste consumes time and fuel, and adds wear and tear to equipment. Consider a farm that delivers bedding to one location, then loads and moves it to another spot, before loading it again and spreading it. Each time someone handles the bedding, costs associated with labor, fuel, machinery, and shrink go up without adding any value to the bedding.
In a second example, a farm stores forages in multiple bunkers in different areas. An employee uses a payloader to scoop and transport forages to the feed center. The loader moves a small amount of feed each trip, and the majority of its hours are spent moving feed. This inefficient movement of materials is a clear example of transportation waste.
Inventory waste refers to the storage of excessive parts or supplies. For the many farmers who value thrift, it can be difficult to get rid of broken, outdated, or otherwise useless items, due to the belief these items might have use someday. However, maintaining excess inventory leads to one of two common labor inefficiencies. Either someone on the farm needs to spend extra time organizing the extra inventory, or, if it becomes disorganized, it will take extra time for people to find the useful items among the clutter. In some cases, excess inventory may never be used, especially if it expires or becomes irrelevant after a certain period.
Consider a dairy that heaps parlor supplies and maintenance items in a storeroom at the milking center. When an employee needs to repair a milking unit, the milking operation is disrupted while that employee searches for the correct part. Cleaning chemicals that are not stored correctly may leak or spill, contaminating other items and further delaying the search. When the employee cannot find the part, they call the owner for help, causing further disruption to the manager’s schedule.
Defects refer to mistakes, disruptions, or poor quality in production systems. Defects add to the workload of the people who must respond to and correct them, taking time away from value-adding production tasks and hindering overall performance. Consider the movement of milking cows to and from the parlor when gates are not staged properly and cow groups get mixed up. This disruption requires additional labor to sort cows, and upsets the cows’ daily routine. Milking a treated cow into the tank is an obvious defect that leads to loss of saleable milk. Eliminating this defect has been a management focus for many years, but it still occurs.
Overproduction waste refers to making more product than is currently needed. In daily operations on a dairy farm, this includes preparing more of a production input than can be used in a timely manner. Defacing more silage than is needed for the immediate feeding cycle and saving the extra forage to feed during the next cycle is one example of overproduction. Another example is scheduling routine preventative maintenance before it is recommended by the manufacturer, for instance, routinely changing oil twice as frequently as needed.
7. Extra Processing
Lean Management classifies production activities that add no value to the final product as extra processing waste. Examples from the dairy context include over-milking cows or mixing feed longer than required. These activities add no value, yet they utilize labor and other inputs while driving up costs.
8. Non-utilized Talent
Failure to recognize or utilize employee skill sets to their full potential is a type of waste that Lean Management calls non-utilized talent. This type of waste can occur when managers are unaware of their employee’s abilities, or if they are unable or unwilling to use them. Imagine a manager who speaks a different language than his employees and does not know that one of the milkers is an experienced mechanic and welder. If managers do not know the full extent of their workers’ abilities, they risk underutilizing their talents. A senior operator who refuses to delegate tasks to a capable team member is another example of non-utilized talent.
Practice Identifying Waste in Production Activities
Learning about the eight types of waste in Lean Management gives farm operators a new framework to identify and classify waste in production activities. Once you adopt this framework, waste may become apparent everywhere you look! Some activities generate multiple types of waste, providing ample opportunities for business improvement.
With practice, managers and employees can hone their ability to recognize waste in daily operations. Here is an opportunity to check your understanding of the eight waste categories and test your observational skills. Watch this short video of a feed loading activity. What do you see in this video? What wastes can you identify? Which of the eight categories of waste do you recognize?