It’s Grand Final season across Australia and whichever code you follow, our eyes will be on the scoreboard during the game, keeping track of the timing clock and watching the scores. There are also lots of statistics about the players and every element of the game. So what can we learn from within the Grand Final this year? When you return to work, is your team ready to head out like they are playing on the hallowed grounds of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or Stadium Australia?

Watching the Clock

Every game, including a Grand Final, is played with clear time constraints; it has a clearly defined start time, rest periods between quarters and a finish time. Time constraints help performance by channeling our brains to concentrate our efforts across the time allocated. Having clear times for all tasks in our business will also help performance. As humans we easily let tasks expand into the time we perceive as available. How often do we clean the house 30 minutes before guest arrive, when we have had a full day beforehand and not a lot got done. Our brains swing into gear when time constraints are in place.

time keeping for business success

In our business, it’s easy to let each task take the time it takes but we all know intuitively that we are much more efficient when we are busy, as we don’t waste time on trivial tasks but get to the job and get it done with the correct quality. Without putting our teams under too much pressure, consider how you can provide clear timeframes for all tasks to be completed. Having a clearly defined pacemaker may be the key to getting your customer pace to match your own.

Keeping Score

Having a clear goal at the start of the game will ensure our team is heading out with the right mindset. In the Grand Final the goal is to beat the other team, and do this in the strategic way we had planned. We know which team has won and beaten the other team by keeping track of the score; for AFL, that’s measured by goals and points. In manufacturing, it’s often the number of products or jobs completed. In the office, it might be the number of quotes sent out or the number of jobs handed over to Production. Whatever measure suits your business, it needs to be clearly defined and displayed with metrics, and then using the correct forums, like a Daily Stand Up meeting, to review progress.

using colour coding to clearly communicate production status

Players Statistics

Leading up the final, there are statistics on team and players, and everything else; this tells us who is good at their role and where improvements might be made. Likewise in our businesses, are we keeping track of our teams statistics? You may be doing this in your head as a manager but we can make this a key part of developing our people and our team by using a skills matrix. A Skills Matrix is a good tool for identifying the tasks needed in your team and providing a method for evaluating and developing the skills needed.

Example Skills Matrix Photo

So as we cheer on our team in the Grand Final (May the best team win!!) let’s reflect what we can learn by having clear time allocations, keeping score with good metrics and keeping tracked of our statistics.

The practice of providing a safe workplace and implementing Lean production systems have been kept separate in most manufacturing sites. It is not uncommon to find these two essential functions being slightly out of alignment due to the (mistaken) perception that improving the objectives of improving safety and reducing waste may actually be in opposition with each other. The new complexities of regulatory safety compliance have demanded the need for specialists. Similarly the skills to implement a lean production system also seek the top professionals in this field.

Manufacturing companies have realised they need a way to collaborate between their safety and production staff to combine these two specialists areas to produce improved outcomes. Excellent Safety practices are also excellent Lean practices.

Ethically it is never acceptable to put people in harm’s way for the sake of a short term productivity gain. And at a more fundamental level, a hazardous workplace will adversely affect quality, production, cost, delivery and morale. We know that an unsafe workplace always has higher costs than a safe one.

When it comes to improving your manufacturing process, it is critical to be aware of the safety practices needed in any process you wish to improve. There are three excellent lean tools that you can implement into processes to create a safer and incident-free workplace. There are Practical 5S, the 8 Wastes, and Standard Work.

Practical 5S

A Practical 5S program improves the safety and reduces the risk profile of a work area; even though it does not focus directly on safety. A clean and organised area will always be safer than one that is not.


Ideally, the Practical 5S system will follow the sequence – Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise, Sustain. When the historical clutter is removed, the risks are reduced by eliminating unused equipment and items which opens up the area to allow the work to be performed without the clutter, resulting in fewer accidents. When we approach “Set in Order” we can adjust the process to incorporate improved ergonomics, lowering the risk of repetitive type injuries and manual handling problems.

Shine, Standard and Sustain follow to further improve the work area, engage the workforce, increase safety awareness and continue to lower the risks within the area.

The Eight Wastes

When lean systems look to remove waste from processes, the 8 Wastes are a standard approach to take. We can identify the Eight Wastes and at the same time consider their impact on safety and hazards in the work area. We can expand this viewpoint as Damon Nix, of the Georgia Tech Research Institute, suggests “Safety is value-added, and hazards are wastes.”

Eliminating waste in a manufacturing environmant

Therefore we can see the Eight Wastes from a safety perspective:

Transportation – Exposure to forklift traffic, Extra handling, Potential slip, trip and fall hazards.
Inventory – Double handling, Falling loads, traffic congestion, trip hazards.
Motion – Overexertion, poor ergonomic design
Waiting – Hazardous energy exposure, Setups and Changeovers
Overproduction – Overexertion, further handling of goods, unnecessary machine interaction.
Over Processing – Unnecessary machine interaction
Defects – Hazardous material exposure, Increased maintenance activities.
Skill Not Used – Not using employee ideas and missing out on potential safety improvements.

An example of considering the Motion waste is to look into the ergonomics of the process. Improvements in ergonomics are one of the biggest impacts to help smooth out the work. A process that has poor ergonomics often takes longer than a process that has included good ergonomics.

Ergonomic improvements address one of the 8 Waste, and once a team understands the difference between good and bad ergonomics, they can quickly make many small improvements which accumulate. This addresses safety and lean improvements at the same time.

Standard Work

By investing time to develop the way a process is undertaken we can create standard work and, more importantly, a defined baseline. Where there is no standard work, there is no repeatable sequence, timing and outcome. Without this, the team members can freely create their own way to approach the work or take short cuts. This may, or may not, be the safest way to do the job, or give the right outcome.

rough documentation helps with practical standard work

To develop standard work for a process, first, take a good look and specify exactly what result you expect to achieve with each process step. Then design a new process that is safe, and produces a defect-free outcome. When standard work is created this new method can ensure that the work is done correctly and safely every time.

In Conclusion

By using the lean tools of Practical 5S, Eight Wastes and Standard Work we can implement Lean principles and good safety practices together. The results can be higher than when each aspect is considered in isolation. Then both the safety professionals and lean experts can speak the same language and solve more problems when working together.

Office Process Design

Once a burning platform or case for change has been established within a company the step change for office processes begins. We start by using lean principles to understand the current situation for the office processes, then develop a future state plan to meet our goal. The implementation plan addresses how we close the gap between the two situations. Often it is easy to get lost amongst the details of the people we have and their current skill set. Here we will look at how to develop a process and determining WHAT value-added tasks are needed to support the future state plans, then look at how we determine WHO we get to do these tasks. Developing a robust implementation plan, including the checking and auditing, will help us be successful in implementing our change and meet our goal.

what and then who BATCH

Determining WHAT with Value Stream Mapping

The Lean Value Stream Mapping approach allows us to visualise our current process and information steps. As we work through the TXM 8 Steps on Developing a Future State, tasks are reviewed with the aim of creating flow and removing the wastes in the process. We determine if the process steps are needed at all or if they can be combined with other tasks; this instantly begins to focus on flow by reducing the waiting and queue times between process steps and departments. Here we want to be clear on WHAT tasks are needed to complete the process steps and add value to our product or service, from the customer perspective.

Sometimes we get caught up in the detail of who currently does the tasks and how busy they are; a good facilitator will help to guide these concerns and focus back onto the tasks first. After we have a clear picture to WHAT needs doing, then we can consider who does them, and how.

Determining WHO with Process Design

Once we have determined WHAT tasks need doing, we can turn our attention towards WHO does these tasks. Firstly let’s understand what skills are needed to complete each task most efficiently; is it an understanding of our MRP system? Or our accounting system? Or technical knowledge of our products? List the skills needed to complete the tasks, then consider who is the best person or people to complete these tasks.

Often in a big company, having one person completing the new process will not provide enough capacity to meet the company’s needs. As we outline how big that task is we can consider if we need more than one person to complete the tasks concurrently. So rather than taking a step backward and breaking the process into several parts, with handovers between people, consider utilising the gains of flow by having one person complete the task from start to finish, and duplicate this new process as the capacity is required. This lets us complete many jobs across the entire process at the same time. And it will improve the efficiency of the process as the queuing and waiting are removed.

Developing the Implementation Plan

Just determining what and who for our new step changed process isn’t enough; now there real hard work start with documenting, training, checking our improvements have been successful and coaching to close any gaps found.


As much as possible we like to utilise the company’s existing documentation process for standard or SOPs. If you don’t have any, it is simple enough to create a visual document with a flow chart of the key steps and some words to make sure we have done our best to explain how the new process will work.

We also need to document how the process will be controlled and instigated; this may be done by reviewing daily or weekly, so we can check on how we went in the last review period and look at what is needed in the next day or week.


now the draft documentation is ready to go, we can begin to train everyone in the new process. It is important that everyone attends the training to make sure we all understand why we are making these changes. We also need to train back up people to help make our process more robust and not reliant on a small number of people. This puts us in a better position when people get sick or have holidays, and reduces the risk of letting the team slide back into the old ways.

The leadership team also needs to have an awareness of the new processes. Clear escalation rules and how to handle interference also need to be considered as we set up a new system for success.

Check and Audit

As the new process is implemented, be clear in how we will check and audit the new processes. This may include:

– the agreed-to cycle time and lead times are being met

– review meetings are being attended

– escalation process works


Any gaps that are noted during the auditing may be dressed with coaching. Review the documentation and training, and work with the individual to understand where those gaps are occurring.


When developing a new business process, it’s important to focus on the value-added tasks first – noting WHAT needs to be done – before heading into the details and working on WHO will complete the tasks. Then having a robust implementation plan will help your new process be implemented successfully, and not just another failed change attempt.

How do we approach Waste elimination in a manufacturing environment? Start by developing a structured process that is simple and centred on reducing the waste, no matter how small, as this will add up over time to build team skills and improve performance. It is better to do something small rather than not addressing the wastes at all.  In any manufacturing processes, the wastes are not easily seen at a first glance, and the task of identifying then requires a structured approach to eliminate wastes.

Eliminating waste in a manufacturing environment
Workers identifying and removing waste from the production line.

A Structured Way to Eliminate Wastes

Creating a structure is more work than just talking about eliminating waste and expecting people to “do it”.  This structure needs to allow people to identify and report wastes that they find within their day to day tasks. Then to support them with the resources to go about reducing and eliminating the wastes. By creating a structured process and linking this to the daily routine can help to develop a repeatable process that builds upon itself towards a Waste Reduction Culture.

To move towards a waste reduction culture, it is difficult to get employees to offer up ideas or suggestions to improve their performance by removing wastes from a set process or their own work tasks.  Many companies had tried to implement a “suggestion box” with varying levels of success but these tend to not be effective or are short-lived in providing beneficial returns.

The problem with the suggestion box approach is that the suggestions are usually aimed at “somebody else” in the company to fix. When one of the ideas is not implemented, or there is a lack of feedback about its status, most employees tend to stop suggesting improvement ideas. Ownership in the process is missing and it is difficult to develop any structure from these random suggestions.

A waste reduction culture starts with giving all employees the skills to contribute at their level. There is a place for the bigger picture projects that may be recommended by internal specialists or consultants however these are typically more sophisticated and need analysis and larger amounts of time to implement, such as in new processes or new machinery.

Waste can be seen and it can also hide in plain sight. Learn to identify wastes and remove them from your processes.

Starting to Reduce Wastes

Start by providing practical skills and know-how to all employees, so that every employee can develop their own suggestions which can be easily and rapidly be implemented. These teachings are a knowledge bank of waste identification, using The 8 Wastes (or the 7 Wastes, depending on which “Lean School” you went to) and the practical skills to be able to observe work that develops improvement ideas.

With these two teachings, the ability to identify an improvement becomes easier. This is then followed by the opportunity to implement a possible solution.  Small amounts of time are needed to allow individuals and teams to set a regular time for offering, discussing, and most importantly, implementing and trialing ideas.

By having time to shared ideas and to work at implementing them, it becomes a critical part of developing ownership. Often the first improvement itself is less important than the improvements that might spin out from implementing an idea. This is how Waste Reduction starts and repeating it many times over will create a new culture of waste reduction.

The time may be a little as five minutes a day and be included as part of the Daily Team Meeting. Basic problem-solving tools can be used to assist our teams to work through ideas, including a flip chart or whiteboard, Before and After pictures, Waste walk sheets, and Observation sheets.

Get Started!

Having a structured approach to waste elimination will start the ball rolling, where many small suggestions are being rapidly implemented and achievements are being gained. These all add up to contributing towards improved performance and a culture of waste elimination as the norm.

In every manufacturing process, our aim is to add value to a product that the customer will pay for. While adding value to our products, there are tasks that must be done to complete the work but don’t directly add value; set-ups and inspection, to name a few. Then there are the other activities that occur during production that are waste.

According to Lean Manufacturing principles, waste is anything that creates no value that the customer is willing to pay for. Waste is defined in terms of value therefore we can only know the waste by first knowing the value first. Waste, therefore, is relative to the customers’ needs.

How Do We Begin toSeethe Waste in Our Production Systems?

Cartons on Pallets
Knowing where the waste is in your process is a must for any manufacturing business.

We begin to investigate the value-adding steps and cycle times in our process, through a Value Stream Mapping process. Out of this process, we now understand how long the value-adding steps take and the overall lead time it takes to get a part all the way through to the customer.

We realise that there is always a BIG difference between these two times.  The difference between value-adding time and the lead-time time provides us with the opportunity to remove the hidden wastes in the value stream. The difference in times is where we can begin to focus on and discover where wastes are hidden.

The 7 Wastes

The 7 wastes (or Muda) have been defined by Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, and they have become known as the 7Ws.

The original seven Muda (Wastes) are:

  • Transport (moving products that are not actually required to perform the processing)
  • Inventory (all components, work in progress and the finished product not being processed)
  • Motion (people or equipment moving or walking more than is required to perform the processing)
  • Waiting (waiting for the next production step)
  • Overproduction (production ahead of demand)
  • Over Processing (resulting from poor tool or product design creating activity)
  • Defects (the effort involved in inspecting for and fixing defects)

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In order to remind us of these concepts, Acronyms can be a very effective tool and here a few examples,

An easy way to remember the 7 wastes is TIMWOOD

T: Transportation

I: Inventory

M: Motion

W: Wait

O: Over-processing

O: Over-production/Excess-processing

D: Defects

Another easy way is NOW TIME: It’s now time to eliminate Mudas:

N: Non-Quality

O: Over-production

W: Wait

T: Transportation

I: Inventory

M: Motion

E: Excess-processing

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With the 8 wastes use the acronym DOWNTIME is a useful memory aid.

D: Defects

O: Over-production

W: Waiting

N: Non-utilized  Human Resources/Talent

T: Transportation

I: Inventory

M: Motion

E: Excess Processing

*Note this has now been expanded to include an eighth waste of “Non-utilized  Human Resources/Talent”.

What are the 8 Wastes?

Paint cans
Waste must be identified and removed if you are to make your business as efficient as possible.
  1. Defects – The simplest form of waste is components or products that do not meet the specification.  The Toyota quality achievement came with the switch from Quality Control to Quality Assurance – efforts devoted to getting the process right, rather than inspecting the results.
  2. Over-Production – A key element of JIT was making only the quantity required of any component or product. This is the main challenging point to the Western premise of the Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) upon which MRP system is built on. This defines the fixed ordering costs, built around set-up times, and thus the need to spread these fixed costs over large batches. The Toyota production system moved from long set-ups to Single Minute Exchange of Die (or SMED).
  3. Waiting – Time that is not being used effectively can only be a waste – we are incurring the cost of wages and all the fixed costs of rent, rates, lighting, and heating so we should use every minute of every day productively. The Toyota production system is focused on the reasons why machines or operators are under-utilised and set about addressing them all. Thus we have new tools for preventive maintenance, the creation of flow and the emphasis on takt time.
  4. Transportation Waste – Moving items between areas, buildings or factories incurs a cost, in energy to initiate the movement – such as the petrol absorbed by a forklift truck. However, there is much more than just the accounting costs; the movement brings other costs. Managing a factory with operations spread apart is much more difficult than when the subsequent stages are located in the same work cell adjacent to one another.
  5. Excessive Movement – Separate from the transporting of items is movement. People spending time moving around the plant or cell is equally wasteful. The time a machine operator wastes walking around in order to find a piece of tooling or spanner could be better utilised if we improve housekeeping by locating every needed in a place that is close at hand.
  6. Over Processing – A good example from my own experience relates to surface finishes requirements on the component. The original drawing required a cyclonical grinding to improve the surface finish after turning. When a new CNC machine was installed the required surface finishes could now be achieved with a finished path of the new lathe.  Thus the grinding operation was removed. A basic principle of the TPS is doing only what is needed.
  7. Excess Inventory – Now everyone understands that a key element of the Toyota production system is that a JIT production system reduces the cost of inventory. By lowering the inventory we can then see the problems in resupplying the inventory in short lead times. Thus lean is a continual process of improvement.
  8. The eighth waste – Non-utilized Human Resources/Talent – The waste of not using people to the best of their unique abilities. How can we involve everyone in developing ideas to generate improvements and new products?

Now you have an understanding of the 8 Wastes and how to identify them you can start to learn about Value Stream Maps and how to create your own Value Stream Maps to identify where the wastes in your processes. Value Stream Mapping sessions are some of the most powerful Lean tools you can use to enhance your business, it’s people and process.

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