Guest Columns

Industry Issues

Identifying waste in your operation

Michael J. Schlagenhaufer

Michael J. Schlagenhaufer, manufacturing specialist with Sheboygan, Wisconsin-based insurance company Acuity, has a diverse manufacturing background, having worked in engineering and product development, machining, inventory and materials management.

With four decades of experience in a wide range of manufacturing industries, I have seen a lot. Many of my roles included responsibilities to improve the bottom line. In my experience, identifying and eliminating waste from the operation is key to improving the bottom line.

Now, there are two kinds of waste in manufacturing. The first is physical waste — things like cardboard, unusable ends from cheese block or paper that separates products. This kind of waste can sometimes be identified, collected, separated, recycled and turned into money. The second kind of waste, the one I would like to discuss here, is inefficiency in processes, operations and procedures.

After many years as a Continuous Improvement Manager (CIM), I look at any business through the eyes of lean manufacturing. Lean classifies waste as one of eight types:

• Defects — Manufacturing bad product;
• Overproduction — Making more than the customer needs;
• Waiting — Needing material or product from downstream operations;
• Non-utilized talent — Not using input from all employees;
• Travel — Walking, searching for tools, looking for product, etc.;
• Inventory — Storing more than you need;
• Motion — Using an inefficient workstation layout; and
• Excess processing — Doing things the customer is not willing to pay for.

Downtime equals loss of money.

Here are some examples of the eight types of waste I have seen within cheese plants.

• Defects

Defects may result from a lack of quality control or unstable processes. If incoming materials are not inspected, substandard products could enter your manufacturing operation and result in product not meeting customer specifications. This can be managed by implementing receiving spot checks, SPC (statistical process control), incoming product verification and supplier certification programs. In addition, incorrectly maintained equipment, like dull blades on slicers, can cause product variation. Establishing a preventative and predictive maintenance program for all equipment will help reduce or eliminate premature equipment failure or breakdown, which can help prevent defects.

• Overproduction

If your line is running 5,000 pounds of sliced cheese per day and your customers only need 4,500 pounds, you are storing the extra 500 pounds. This is not efficient. You are running your equipment and staff harder than needed, taking life out of your machines and paying employees more than necessary. Lean uses the term Takt time. It is derived from German and means “beat time.” Your lines should run to the beat of your customers’ demands. You can use tools like line balancing, VSM (value stream mapping) and cycle time measurements to ensure your lines run at the speed your customers demand product.

• Waiting

If your upstream operation can package 100 slices of cheese per minute, but your slicer can only cut 90, the packaging operation is waiting. Line balancing, cycle time and equipment capabilities need to be measured, adjusted and improved. If your processing line runs through products faster than your material handling staff can replenish them, VSM might be the right tool.

• Non-utilized talent

Too often, companies put engineers on the floor to solve problems. They may fix the issue but end up creating another. You need to involve everyone, from operators at the source of the problem to people upstream and downstream from the issue. They may have insightful information about potential root causes and can often add information about how a change could impact upstream or downstream processes. Empower and engage all your resources.

• Travel

We are not talking about business travel — instead, we are referring to employees walking all over the plant to obtain items needed to perform their jobs. Maybe your raw material storage is on the opposite end of your building, so your material handlers walk miles. Look at your work cells and make sure tools and other needed items are within reach or close to the point of use. 5S, spaghetti diagrams, VSM and cell layout review are key tools to reduce travel. This can apply to more than production areas. Look at your office areas, maintenance department, etc.

• Inventory

Physically walk through your building and take inventory of all the items you are storing. How much do you really need? I often see outdated, unused equipment saved. If it will never be used, you are giving up valuable production space to store it. I realize customers may ask you to hold or store product for them. Make sure that arrangement is managed well. Stock what is needed and sell excess items. Floor space is overhead cost.

• Motion

Often, we do things the way someone showed us years ago, but it may not be the best way. Review all your operations and look for improvements that could be made. This is where you need to get a variety of staff involved — operators, maintenance and office staff. Analyze any motion needed to make the product and identify and address wasted motion. Remember, employee involvement will get you the biggest bang.

• Excess processing

This includes things like rework. For example, if you made extra and the customer changes packaging, you must rework this inventory. Excess processing can also include sorting bad product or simply doing things the customer did not request. Make sure you understand exactly what your customer wants and is willing to pay for.

I realize this is a lot of information about waste and how you can reduce it to improve operational costs. Keep in mind that lean is not a short-term project — it is an ongoing process and continuous drive for improvement.

Lean is a cultural change that requires everyone to think about what can be done to reduce waste and improve efficiencies.


The views expressed by CMN’s guest columnists are their own opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Market News®.

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