When running any business, it’s important to trim the fat so-to-speak by minimizing wasted costs, materials, and labor hours. In many cases, however, it can be hard to identify areas in which things can be cut without stepping on the toes of your customers by compromising the value they receive. The key, then, becomes eliminating what are known as “non-value adding” activities from your process; this could mean any number of items or activities that don’t contribute to the end customer value, and could therefore be eliminated to save time and money. Let’s take a look at a few ways in which you can identify and remove such processes from your operations.
1. Movement & Transport
The nature of many goods-producing operations is that materials have to be moved from one place to another when moving in between stages of production, or from production to post-production, etc. In the end, your customer doesn’t receive a better product in any way just because it’s been carried around your work floor, which is a non-value adding activity. Think about how you can rearrange your assembly lines, production stages, and/or loading processes to create a more efficient cycle. If you only have one bay for trucks to pull into, for example, you are stuck with having both your inputs delivered and your outputs shipped off from the same location. What this means is that having a U-shaped assembly line, in which both the start and end of the line are near the single loading and unloading bay, you will bypass the need to transport materials or products unnecessarily.
In an unbalanced line, that is, one in which there can be downtime between orders, employees may not make the most efficient use of their time if it’s scattered with breaks and stoppages. Usually, these delays come about as a result of bottlenecking; the number of orders coming in, the time each process takes, the working speed of employees, and more can all create a bottleneck in your business. Identify bottlebnecks and adjust your line accordingly. If you find that one station is constantly overloaded, for example, while others seem to be overstaffed, move workers around or, if there’s no space for more people at the current station, consider re-purposing some more of your workplace for the process that is bottlenecking.
3. The “Don’t Cares”
Believe it or not, your customer does not love and hate the exact same things about your product(s) that you do. This is why we have focus groups and conduct market research, but often even then we like to “go with our gut” and do what we think is right. In these situations, especially from an efficiency standpoint, you have to disconnect yourself. If customers really aren’t using a certain feature, or have said that they really think something should be done differently, those aspects aren’t adding any value to your product. This is especially true when your product might be, or at least include, a service: Don’t waste time on things your customers don’t care about. Send surveys, ask longtime clients, and stick to your research in these situations. There is no sense in wasting employee time and company money on things that don’t add value for your end user.
When it comes down to it, there are literally a thousand things every business could probably do right now to cut out non-value adding activities. Some of them are blatantly obvious, and some of them require some digging. However, like just about everything in business, if it takes a bit of effort to tighten up and get just right, it’s probably worth it (if it was easy everyone would have their operation streamlined to the nth degree from the start).
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- Changeover: Streamlining Your Business
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- Chaku Chaku & Other Lean Terms You Should Know
- Understanding Key Lean Manufacturing Concepts