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How To Eliminate Overprocessing Waste

29th August 2019 by Clarity | No Comments

In this latest post in our TIM WOODS series on waste, we’re going to explore overprocessing waste in a little more detail and help you look at strategies to eliminate it.


Overprocessing means, very simply, doing more work than is necessary, that is, adding more value to a product than the customer will pay for.  It is a particularly difficult waste to eliminate as it will often be seen to be ‘doing the right thing’, and it will require clear thinking from employees who are engaged with the reasoning behind the Lean program to identify and commit to doing, or not doing, what they are most or least comfortable with. You may find that it requires a complete change of outlook to see something that you and your team feel good about is actually a waste and is eating into the profits of the company.




For this reason, overprocessing may also be a difficult waste to spot.  In fact, from behind a computer screen, it will be almost impossible to spot.  The only sure way of revealing where overprocessing is eating into your production is by doing a Gemba walk …. the tried and tested method of ‘go and see’.  Overprocessing is rarely a result of decisions made in boardrooms.  It often comes about through well-intentioned decisions made on the shop floor, making it even harder to identify.


And what do we look for?  Obvious examples from manufacturing are:

  • Finishing areas that are invisible once the product is assembled to the same standard as the visible parts
  • Adding packaging which is surplus to what is needed to ensure the product’s safe arrival
  • Allowing a larger than necessary safety margin for cooking times beyond what is known to be necessary
  • Duplication of checking procedures


Workers- overprocessing-waste-lean-clarity


However, overprocessing does not only apply to manufacturing. How much ‘feel better’ waste is there in the office, or in the service industry, or even in the home?


Think about:

  • Standard questionnaires where many of the questions are known to be irrelevant but answers are insisted on
  • Small requests, eg for expenses, that are treated in the same way as large requests and require multiple layers of approval
  • Time spent labelling a product when it is entirely visually evident what it is


So how are we going to identify this waste if we are not conscious that it is hurting us?  Firstly ruthlessly challenge yourself with ‘Why are we doing this?’.  Unless it is something that is genuinely adding value that the customer is prepared to pay for, it is highly likely to be overprocessing.

Secondly, identify the best possible outcome for a process and measure your results against this.  This is a different way of thinking to the common approach of measuring against an acceptable  ‘standard’ and quickly reveals where waste is getting in the way of the best outcome.  Remember that incidents of overprocessing may be very small in terms of time, financial loss, wasted material, etc but these may be repeated thousands of times a day and add up to serious impact on the organisations’ efficiencies and therefore costs.

And what do we to eliminate overprocessing once we have found it?  In this respect, this is often an easier waste to take out of the process as it is usually a case of stopping doing something rather than an additional process.  However, as we have already said, this is often not comfortable for staff who perceive that the change will impact negatively on the finished quality of the product.  This is where a deep-seated Lean culture that promotes true Lean thinking will win over against a conformist culture, and may well prove to be the acid test of your employee engagement.


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That said, excellent SOP’s are also essential so that workers are comfortable with leaving out a process that may be natural to complete.

The fact that overprocessing is not an obvious waste or that it often happens by well-intentioned personnel does not make it any less damaging than the more blatant wastes, such as waiting, waste of inventory, defects, etc.  In fact, it can often be the cause of many additional wastes as well.  Processing, whether necessary or unnecessary, requires the same expenditure to fund the process and usually also results in longer lead times.  It also adds to the human fatigue and the wear and tear on machinery to exactly the same degree as the most value-adding processes.    Finally, bear in mind that it is common that the customer simply will not pay for overprocessing, eg where more decoration has been applied than the customer requires, and this leads to finished products being stored until a buyer is found for them.


ClarityVM Consulting, coaching your team to understand the Lean wastes

Here at ClarityVM Consulting, we coach clients both far and wide about how they can use a Lean programme and visual management to achieve their goals, exceed their targets and make financial savings which would otherwise be lost to waste. We work with our clients to create a bespoke strategy that ensures Lean is set up for success before providing specific, high-quality visual management products to sustain the initiative and make Lean work in the organisation long-term.

You can read more about the work we’ve undertaken with our clients by browsing through our Visual Management Case Studies


Further reading on the Clarity Blog:


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