What is waste? The term waste is actually quite multifaceted and can be defined in a few ways. For instance, waste could be a tangible object or substance that is not useful or no longer needed so it is eliminated. While on the other hand, waste can also be described as acting or using something carelessly or too extravagantly; such examples may include “a waste of time” or “a waste of money.” All in all, waste is not a helpful thing in any situation. However, when looking at waste from a business prospective, waste is harmful as it takes up space, slows down productivity, costs the business valuable time, and can be financially draining. This is where the concept of lean comes into play. Lean focuses on preserving important business and product value but doing so with less work. In the end, what are businesses trying to gain and hold on to? Customer satisfaction. The pure and simple truth is that customers need to be satisfied each and every time they interact with a business or product. If satisfaction is not met, customers will be unhappy and an unhappy customer is more likely to share his or her story of dissatisfaction with others more openly than if they were satisfied. Many times people feel a strong desire to share bad experiences with others so others do not follow in the same footsteps. Waste is one of the top reasons why businesses struggle and why customers end up unhappy.
How Waste Affects Customers
Waste can affect customers in many ways. Let’s take a look at this brief example to understand how a business’s waste becomes not only a business problem, but a customer satisfaction issue as well.
A large manufacturing facility specializing in the production concrete steps provides both products and services to people throughout the United States. They have hub offices in many U.S. locations and also employ hundreds of staff members who create, deliver, and install the concrete steps. However, the business is not as successful as it could be due to an abundance of waste. Lately, top management has been burdened by an overwhelming amount of customer and employee complaints. Some of the complaints involve late shipments, broken or oddly shaped steps, wrong deliveries, mismatched concrete colorings, etc. After conducting a thorough and in-depth analysis of the business from manufacturing to delivery to installation there were quite a few areas of waste identified. Waste ranged from the use of outdated ordering processes which consequently mixed up orders, all the way to broken down equipment being used which affected the color matching of concrete batches. Many areas in the once successful business were found to be neglected and in dire need of repair or updates. Due to all this “waste” in the business, customers experienced frustrating levels of dissatisfaction and will most likely not purchase from the particular business again.
Lean Can Help
Even though the above example captured a business right in the middle of a “waste” crisis, it is important to remember that even a little bit of waste can impede the ability to meet customers’ needs. In order to combat all forms of business waste, the concept of lean manufacturing can help. When lean practices are implemented they are often proactive in nature. When pursuing lean, it is important to try to find and solve potential problems or “areas of waste” and try to resolve them before they become a larger issue. One of the first steps in lean manufacturing is to teach the concepts of lean by involving all the employees. The key to the success of a lean program is make sure everyone is on board and familiar the lean tactics and how they can assist in making the business more efficient and hence, more productive and prosperous.
While the issue of waste can be detrimental to any business, it is important to remember that it can be fixed. However, in order to fix a problem, changes need to be made. A problem usually will not fix itself. In the case of eliminating waste and focusing on continuous improvement, the implementation of lean practices can help provide that needed streamlining you have been looking for.