Oh No! Wastes! Now What Do I Do?: The Lean Tools Primer

Posted on January 26, 2012 | in 5S, Baseball, Concession Stand, Continuous Flow, Error-Proofing, Kanban, Lean Tools, Lean Wastes, Maintenance, Manufacturing, Small Business, SMED/Setup Reduction, Sports, Standardized Work, Tickets, Time Savings, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), Value Stream Mapping, Waiting | by

All this time we’ve talked about the lean wastes.

The problems. The money we’re throwing away. The time we’ve spent poorly.

And now we’ve gone out and identified them. Excess motion. Excess inventory. Excess transportation. The whole gamut.

Upon first glance, we’ve found them in our ticket sales office. And here they are in our concession stand. There’s some more, over there in grounds maintenance!

The wastes – they’re everywhere! What do we do? How do we stop them? We’re no superheroes!!

Defeating the wastes doesn’t take a superhero. It just takes a smart mind with the right tools for the job. Let’s take a look at some of those tools!

5S – Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain: This tool is based on workspace organization and minimization. Identifying what should be near the work and what shouldn’t, and finding methods to keep it that way.

Point of Use Storage: A branch off of 5S, point of use storage helps to keep tools/raw materials/components close to where they are needed and used to prevent excess motion, but also use of shadowboards to maintain access to tools needed. You can very quickly identify if any tools you’d need are missing.

Standardized Work: Maintaining documentation of the “best practice” for following a process will help in training new folks to the process as well as assist in reducing or eliminating variability in the process so the work is more predictable and quality can be kept high.

Process Mapping: Very straightforward, this is a tool for documenting every step/decision/doer of a process. This is related to standardized work in that the process should also be standardized. When looking to make improvements, the process map can be a good starting point for identifying issues and breakdowns.

Value Stream Mapping: Loosely put, this is “process mapping on steroids.” A thorough value stream map incorporates all of the elements of a process map but also includes analysis of inventory, value-added vs. non-value-added time in the process, cycle time, and identification and quantification of wasteful activities. Value stream mapping is one of the first tools to apply when undergoing lean transformations. It looks complicated, but with the proper facilitation it certainly doesn’t have to be.

Visual Factory: The primary concept of visual factory is to provide information accurately and quickly so that decisions can be made immediately. This can be done with 5S (you can tell if something belongs), point of use storage (what is missing), signage (the closest fire extinguisher is 20 feet away), or even with real-time production tracking that indicates performance.

Poka-Yoke or Error-Proofing: The phrase “square peg in round hole” is inherent in poka-yoke. This helps in preventing errors by making it possible to only complete a process in one way, the right way. You can only put a USB plug into your computer one way – that’s a poka-yoke.

Setup Reduction/Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED): Injection molding presses have to change out molds to make different parts. Cooking different meats and vegetables on the same surface means different surface cleaning and preparation. Identifying ways to make those changeovers quick and simple will aid in getting back up and running more quickly as well.

Continuous Flow: Also known as one-piece flow, this is completing one piece in one process and moving to the next step in the process without letting the part wait (thereby causing more waste). The process/part that is completed/made is immediately needed by the next step. For example, a ticket printer at a ticket window will print a ticket based on what has been ordered, immediately dispense it to the operator, who will give it to the customer. This is the opposite of batching, where all the tickets might be printed out in advance and just wait on a table to be used (or not get used at all). The above photo shows empty beer cans batched between processes, on their way to the next stop to be filled. The transportation, batching, and “waiting” is all time that is wasted.

Pull/Kanban: A hybrid of visual factory and continuous flow, kanban is like a supermarket shelf – you see what is available and take what you need, and what has been taken will get replenished. A beer cart has spots allocated to different brands of beer, and when it goes around the golf course and sells beer, Gatorade, and sandwiches it will return to the pro shop and replenish based on what has been taken.

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM): Companies want their equipment to be kept as close to brand new as possible, because that’s probably when it worked best. Well, machines/tools/computers all begin to wear down over time without proper maintenance and management. TPM is a tool for helping maintain machines regularly and optimizing for longer life of usage. Operators and mechanics will identify anomalies or problems with machines regularly and get them fixed, or will find ways to make the machines work better through modifications. If you have a virus scan program running on a regular basis or defragment your hard drive, you’re using TPM on your computer.


This was just an introduction to the tools that we can use to combat waste activities. None of them require superhuman capabilities, just a little time to learn and apply. No capes, no costumes, but the need to roll up your sleeves and count on lots of sidekicks.

Now it’s time to face them. It’s time to take back our processes.

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