Throughout this series on TIM WOODS and waste in Lean, we’re taking an in-depth look at the impact that waste can have on your organisation. In this latest post, we’re exploring waste of motion in Lean including what it is, what causes it, how to recognise it and what you can do to eliminate it.
Waste of motion is one of the eight wastes of Lean because it is a step in the process that in non-value adding to the consumer and is essentially any movement by man or machine that is unnecessary.
Understanding waste of motion
The waste of motion was first highlighted by Frank Gilbreth within this ‘motion studies’ during the early 20th century. Gilbreth carefully observed bricklayers who were bending down to lift heavy bricks from floor level and delivering them to where they were needed. He showed them that they could dramatically increase working efficiency by simply having the bricks delivered to exactly where they were required – the other upshot is that strain injuries also reduced as a result of less heavy material being needed to be moved manually.
Waste of motion can be large, or small. Something as seemingly insignificant as flipping over a screwdriver or other hand tool after taking it from its shadow board, or something larger such as operators moving between working areas.
Don’t forget that motion waste can also easily occur in office environments, anything from walking to printers, too many clicks through your folder tree or searching for envelopes in the stationery supply cupboard can all add up to unnecessary motion.
It’s important to stress that although it’s impossible to eliminate all motion from a production cell or working area, we can work hard to minimise it and make any movement that is essential as stress-free for the operator as possible.
The impact of waste of motion
Waste in motion in your processes can lead to a number of problems that can either be immediately obvious, or hidden but waiting to crop up at any moment. Perhaps the most obvious impact is a lowering of your working efficiency, if your workforce is spending their time moving, lifting, searching or retrieving than actually working to produce goods, efficiency will be very low.
A less obvious problem is the impact that unnecessary motion can cause in the longer-term. Constant lifting, especially from floor level, on items that aren’t even excessively heavy, can cause strains that can lead to sickness, leading to absent employees. Even a machine that has to move distances or lift excessively heavy items can experience wear and tear, leading to increased maintenance requirements or premature breakdowns – further downtime for your business.
Causes of waste of motion
The main causes of waste of motion are all centred around the actual layout of a cell or working area. These can include a required product being placed at ground level, poorly arranged working space and general disorganisation (especially when it comes to tools and other equipment essential for a task). Other problems, such as the design of the working area, also loom large on why a process has excessive motion. More specifically, does the design of the cell mean that the worker has to excessively turn or rearrange the product being worked on?
Recognising waste of motion
Large examples of waste of motion are potentially very easy to spot and are eliminated through common sense and thoroughly understanding the process. That said, there is a natural limit to everyone’s individual ability to remove waste on his or her own. As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the waste of motion, the harder it is to recognise and eliminate; this is because it’s generally more under the control of the individual person and often thought of as ‘just part of the job’.
In order to help you see where there might be waste in your workplace, here are some examples of waste in motion:
- A piece of machinery that travels an excessive distance from a start point to where it starts work.
- Heavy objects placed on low or high shelves.
- Searching for tools and equipment when they are needed for a job.
- Walking across workspace to retrieve parts or tools, or to use machines.
- Constantly turning and moving the product during its manufacturing or assembly.
- Reaching excessive distances when taking components and tools.
- Clicking through an excessively long series of folders.
- Walking to a communal printer or fax machine.
- Bending down to pick up an item that was dropped on the floor.
- Searching through a messy pile of materials to get the right component.
All of the above examples of motion waste are very common but are also overlooked as a problem. The thing is, small examples of motion waste can accumulate and add up to a big problem.
Eliminating waste of motion
It’s important to mention again that you can never truly remove all movement from your processes, it should be minimized as much as possible to reduce the overburden on workers and to improve the overall working efficiencies of your process, this benefits you and your team as you are making their life easier, reducing stress.
It’s beneficial that almost always, the largest and simplest opportunity to reduce waste of motion is actually 5S. 5S challenges your team to review every step of their operation and eliminate the symptoms of the eight wastes. Whatsmore, 5S empowers your team to take ownership of their working areas so they feel more invested in what you are looking to achieve as part of your efforts to eliminate wasted motion. 5S is a fantastic starting point as it can even cost you nothing but the time it takes to evaluate the process and working area, this can then have as much as a 30% efficiency gain when executed correctly. Further still, your team are now working in a tidier, safer environment that has been achieved through effective 5S.
ClarityVM Consulting specialises in engaged your team in 5S with our coaching initiatives so if you are looking for a partner for your Lean, continuous improvement journey then please do get in touch.
Moreover, 5S also gets the ball rolling with other standardisation activities – helping your team to start developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your processes – further advancing the business on its Lean journey.
Businesses that are more experienced in Lean might take advantage of the Lean tool of single minute exchange of die (SMED) as this will remove wasteful motions from your machine setup process and will often reduce setups from several hours to single minutes.
Waste of motion is a significant waste within the TIM WOODS model of Lean wastes and you should make every effort to try to eliminate this from your working processes to increase your efficiencies as well as making work significantly easier for your team.
Remember, movement is not work, but it does cost you time and money so you should look to use every Lean tool at your disposal, such as 5S, to reduce and eliminate excessive motion from the processes within your organisation.
Get in touch with Clarity and let us help you to evaluate your processes and look for opportunities to reduce your motion waste to make your teams lives easier, your processes more efficient and, ultimately help you increase productivity and profit.
ClarityVM Consulting, coaching your team on the value of 5S
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:
- Developing an Effective Standard Operating Procedure
- Assessing Goals and Auditing Strategies
- Aldeburgh Lifeboat Station – Saving Lives With Lean Thinking
- A Visual Management Definition You Can Rely On
- Kaizen Events: Clarity Consulting’s Secret Weapon
- Why Your Workplace Communication Fails (…and How To Improve It)
- Why Lean Programmes Fail
- 6 Simple Solutions to Battle Workplace Stress
- How To Make Your Process Improvements Stick Around
- How To Create A Culture Of Improvement In Your Workplace
- 6 Challenges For Effective Business Leadership
- Our Favourite Lean Quotes…
- Beat Procrastination and get Motivated
- How to improve the morale in your workplace
- Internal Communication: Is It Standing In The Way Of Your Success?