What is Waste and How do we Eliminate it?

Waste bin

Whether we are talking about a manufacturing plant, a retail store, a post office, a bank, a car wash, a police station or any organisation, public or private, that provides a product or service, our focus should always be on the customer.

Who are our customers? The end users who ultimately receive our product or service are of course our primary customers. These customers determine what they would like to receive from the use of the product or service we provide, in other words, what they consider to be of value. It is vital that we understand the needs of our customers and that our product and/or service meets their needs. This begins with the characteristics of the product or service itself. Value also extends to the activities we undertake or processes we operate to produce the product and/or service. Any activity, process or product/service feature that does not deliver value for the customer can be considered to be waste.

Organisations also have internal customers. These customers receive products or services from colleagues upstream of them in the stream of value that flows to the ultimate customer. They in turn provide products and services to internal customers downstream of them. The manner in which internal customers define value should not be arbitrary but aligned to value as defined by the ultimate customer. The specification of arbitrary requirements by internal customers leads to waste.

Problem solving is the most powerful way to eliminate waste in organisations. Once we understand what is of value to the customer, we can design our products, services, activities, and processes to deliver this value and set specifications or targets for each product, service, activity, or process. Where we do not meet these specifications or targets, these gaps may be considered to be waste, and if we do not know why these gaps exist, they become problems to be solved. Closing these gaps focuses your organisation more and more closely on the delivery of value to your customer.

Is everything your organisation does designed to deliver value to your ultimate customer? Does everyone in your organisation know who their internal customers are? Does the concept of value as defined by internal customers align to your ultimate customer’s definition of value? Answering these questions, realigning your products, services, and the means you use to produce them and then addressing performance gaps through problem solving is how you will eliminate waste in your organisation.

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