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Waiting: Always a losing game


In manufacturing, production, and distribution environments, rhythm is essential. A smooth, steady, predictable flow ensures that each critical component – tools, parts, materials, labor, equipment, information – is available in precisely the right form and quantity at the exact moment it’s needed, ready to plug into its correct position and play its defined role. What is waiting waste in Lean Manufacturing? Anything that disrupts or interrupts the rhythm at any point in the flow creates downstream delays. Unanticipated delays are so common that time spent waiting is now the second most costly form of waste in many operations.

Here are a few of the most common causes of waiting waste or delays in production:

  • Waiting for a previous step in the production cycle to be completed
  • Waiting for materials to be transported from another location
  • Waiting for information, authorization, or confirmation
  • Waiting for a missing item to complete a batch
  • Waiting for quality or service issues to be resolved
Waiting time doesn’t always mean that work completely stops - breakdowns, slowdowns, and stalls can sometimes “hide” within the production process, and become Work In Progess (WIP) . Most operators want to play by the rules, so rather than going idle (or powering down equipment), they practice “working while waiting.” Working at a slower pace while waiting for the needed component maintains appearances but continues to waste labor efficiency and often, saps momentum and motivation, as well.

Waiting can be a symptom of unbalanced processes, mismatched cycle times, inconsistent replenishment schedules, poor communications pathways, improper inventory management, unreliable equipment, insufficient maintenance strategies, or any combination of these factors and more. Whatever the cause, the effect that the smooth operation machine you expect instead works in fits and starts, and your productivity goals fall well short of their potential. We all recognize that time is money, so it pays to take the time to identify and eliminate waiting waste in your operation. To combat waiting waste design processes to ensure continuous flow, use standardized work instructions, and develop multi-skilled workers who can quickly adjust to work demands.

UNEX engineers design Lean, space-saving solutions serving several industries, including distribution, logisticsretail, and manufacturing. Learn more about how UNEX can help your business boost productivity and maximize storage space within your operation, click here to contact us or call us at 800-334-8639.

Check out week four: Transportation: When work-in-progress becomes a moving target