5 Tips to Improve the Elimination of Waste

Elimination of Waste

Whether you are implementing a specific program like Lean or 5S to help improve efficiency or you are just looking for a way to eliminate waste in your facility, it is a good idea to look at what has worked for other companies in the past.  Fortunately, there is a lot of data and stories from all sorts of companies that have been gathered over the past decades that can be very helpful.

When attempting to improve the elimination of waste in your facility, take some time to consider the following five great tips.  These ideas can be implemented as is or adjusted to work in your facility.  They can even be launching off points for coming up with unique ideas just for your situation.  No matter how they are used, however, you can benefit from thinking about these tips for improving the elimination of waste.

Tip #1 – Evaluate & Improve the Flow of Work

getting-from-a-to-bOne of the biggest forms of waste in many facilities occurs when parts or products need to be moved around throughout the facility during production.  For example, if a part needs to be painted on one side of the building, then welded on the other side and then finally brought back to the first side for assembly.

This involves a lot of wasted time as well as the effort of the people who are bringing the parts back and forth multiple times.  Even when things are automated using conveyer belts or indoor vehicles it is still a major waste of time for a facility.

To improve the elimination of waste in this example you can consider moving the different types of machinery into a position that makes more sense and will require less movement.  Of course, moving large machines can be difficult, but for most facilities it will be well worth the effort in the long run.

Tip #2 – Utilize Visual Communication Strategies

pipe-valvesWhen people don’t have the information they need to perform a task properly it will always lead to some type of waste.  Whether it is in the form of employees working inefficiently or having things done incorrectly, you’ll find that lack of actionable information can be a major cause of waste in your facility.

While there is certainly no substitute for a good training program, that is not always enough.  Providing employees with the information they need right where they need it is the ideal way to ensure they are working as efficiently as possible.

Using visual communications tools is the best way to convey information to people in the locations where they will need it.  Consider the following examples of visual communication tools and how they can be used to reduce or eliminate waste:

  • Equipment Placement Floor Signs – Having floor marking signs that reserve a place for a particular piece of equipment will not only keep things organized but will serve as a constant reminder of where things are in the facility. These signs can be used for anything from recycling bins to forklifts to keep things organized.
  • Floor Marking Tape – You can use floor marking tape to convey a wide range of messages that can help people work more efficiently. For example, you can make a path out of a specific color tape so people know which way they should be going to get to a set destination.
  • Valve Tags – Placing a tag on the valves in your facility will ensure people know exactly what will happen should they open a valve. If someone turns on a valve expecting water but it is actually a dangerous chemical, this can result in a work stoppage and injuries (both of which are very wasteful).  Valve tags can help to dramatically reduce the risk of this type of thing happening.

Of course, there are dozens of other ways visual communication can help your facility.  Thinking about all the options for visual communications is a great way to reduce or eliminate waste in your facility.

Tip #3 – Listen to Your Customers

This is one of the most important waste elimination techniques, and also one of the most often overlooked.  Many companies today create products to sell to customers with a variety of features that customers aren’t willing to pay for.  This is a type of waste that can cost a facility a surprising amount of money.

For example, if you are selling a product in ten different color options but your customers are unwilling to pay any premium for having these options, you’re actually losing money by offering this feature.  Having multiple different colors of paint, taking time to switch paints and other things all take time and effort to perform.

If your customers will be just as happy only having the ability to buy a black & white version of a product as they would be with different color options, it is wasteful to make the additional options.

Tip #4 – Always Stay in Compliance

auditAnother common mistake that facilities make is only worrying about regulations and compliance when they are expecting an inspection or audit.  When operating like this you will typically have to make costlier updates and adjustments just before an audit or inspection since you will have to make the changes immediately rather than on your own terms.

In addition, you can’t always predict when you will be audited or inspected.  This means you’re at risk of getting hit with a fine.  Working constantly to maintain your compliance with all regulations will actually help to reduce waste in the long run.

Tip #5 – Use Proven Waste Elimination Strategies

Whenever looking for ways to eliminate waste in your facility you should always take advantage of proven systems.  Looking at how other companies in similar industries have implemented Lean manufacturing, 5S, Six Sigma and other great concepts is going to help guide you toward effective elimination of waste.

Never Stop Learning

The bottom line with all of these tips is that you should never stop learning and working on improving the efficiency of your facility.  Waste elimination is not something that you can accomplish overnight.  Instead it is an ongoing process that should always be a priority for your company.

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