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 exactly the right form and quantity at the exact moment it’s needed, ready to plug into its correct position and play its defined role. Anything that disrupts or interrupts the rhythm at any point in the flow creates downstream delays. Unanticipated delays are so common, in fact, that time spent waiting is now the second most costly form of waste in many operations.

Wait a minute, what’s the holdup? Here are a few of the most common causes of delays:

  • 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


Bear in mind that waiting time doesn’t always mean that work completely stops - breakdowns, slowdowns, and stalls can sometimes “hide” within the production process. 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 falls well short of its potential. The waiting game is always a losing proposition.

We all recognize that time is money, so it pays to take the time to identify and eliminate waste in your operation. What are you waiting for?

Download the Lean Manufacturing Guidebook Here

UNEX engineers design material handling systems to meet the strategic and operational goals of customers’ businesses. We profile current and projected material flow, product movement and picking strategies to design the best material handling system – from system conception to engineering to final implementation. Don’t wait: contact your Pickologist and let’s get started.


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

Posted by: UNEX