Muda (無駄) is a Japanese word meaning “wasted potential” (broadly translated) and has been adopted as a key feature of Japanese management practices.
Whilst the term has been more closely associated with waste in the manufacturing sector, the synergies with the services sector make it easily applicable. The seven wastes of lean help identify and eliminate waste within an organisation.
The seven wastes of lean
1. Over-production: Not to be confused with ‘going the extra mile’ in customer service, this refers to those features of your product/service that do not add value for your customer. The extra time and money it costs you to deliver an over-processed feature, when in fact your customer doesn’t want it, is a waste.
2. Over-processing: This waste should be associated with needless bureaucracy. Are your internal processes slowing down the delivery of your end product/service? If so, they need to be reviewed and simplified.
3. Waiting: The most common waste and easily the most frustrating. We have all been there, sending something to a committee for approval and then waiting for it to come back. Unfortunately, it is your customer that pays for the elapsed time and this can lead to frustration both internally and externally.
4. Transportation: The movement of items from one location to another can be wasteful. This doesn’t just include the movement of ‘heavy goods’, it can also include the time it takes to mobilise your service when a request comes in from your customer. The responsiveness of your organisation to your customer’s needs can be a vice and result in you losing competitive advantage.
5. Unnecessary inventory: Holding too much inventory not only wastes space but reduces the agility of your organisation. In the services sector, your inventory is often your knowledge base or an archive of documents. If it is disorganised and contains items you don’t need, it can be impossible to find what you want and delay meeting a customer request. With many companies now placing their documents in the ‘cloud’, as the amount you keep on your server increases, the cost of doing so goes up. You might be wasting valuable space and generating an unnecessary cost.
6. Motion: We often waste time taking unnecessary steps; whether it is movement between parts of the organisation or reinventing the wheel, unnecessary motion creates wasted human potential. Reviewing the way departments collaborate can reduce the waste of motion and mean your employees spend less time administrating and more time adding value. In addition, not utilising the skills of the professionals within your organisation also results in wasted motion as you fail to harness the expertise around you.
7. Defects: If the quality of your end product falls below your customer’s standard, then you risk wasting time reworking your product to remedy the defect. This can cause reputational damage and reduce the likelihood of repeat business.
Identifying and eliminating waste within your organisation should not be a journey without a clear end goal. If it does not improve the quality of the customer experience, you are probably wasting your time. Identify the waste, get to the root cause and then eliminate it.