When you’re producing goods or services in a business the worst thing you can have is waste. Waste is anything that does not provide value to the company and specifically to the end customer. It could be anything from the time someone wastes at work because they have nothing to do to extra parts for a project which need to be discarded. It can even involve inefficiencies which occur when you have items just sitting around waiting to be used. When you evaluate the flow of your business, you will be able to get a better idea of just where the waste is occurring and how it can be eliminated or reduced.
What is Flow
When you are ready to put in the effort required to reduce and eliminate the waste from your facility you need to start by learning how your business flows. This is often done with a value stream map but in its simplest form the flow of a business can be learned by following a process from its absolute beginning through to completion. This will help you find any areas where improvements can be made to help reduce the waste which is produced at any point in the process.
Identifying & Eliminating Waste
Once you’ve documented the flow of all the different processes in your facility you can begin looking at them closely to find where the waste is occurring. If, for example, you learn that when manufacturing a particular item there is a person who has to wait around until the previous task is completed before he can start working on his part of the process. The fact that he is just standing there is an example of waste which can be reduced or eliminated. Perhaps having him start his work day a half hour later than the rest of the group would be effective, or finding him other tasks which can be done while waiting.
Whatever you decide to do to keep this employee from simply standing around waiting for work will be an improvement. Many facilities have found that after analyzing the flow of their work using value stream maps they can transition some or all of the processes to be in line with the ‘just in time’ model. This model is popular in lean manufacturing and is great for reducing waste. When properly implemented it has all the parts and people arriving in the area to do the work right when it needs to be done. This prevents excess stock from being ordered and time from being wasted.
Looking at Your Flow
One of the most important things about analyzing the flow of your facility is to look at it from a lean manufacturing point of view. Finding where improvements and optimizations can be made will help ensure you are putting in the proper changes. Never simply make changes for the sake of change, but rather take the time to look at the whole flow of your business and see what changes will have the most dramatic effects and do those first.