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Manufacturing Waste

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What is Manufacturing Waste

An unfortunate but inevitable result of the production process is waste – the “leftover” remnants of raw materials that were not needed in the final product. In lean manufacturing, waste goes beyond physical material and includes any extraneous step in the process that doesn’t directly add value to the end product (i.e. wasted time due to inefficiencies). 

While each individual production line may not produce a huge amount of waste, the totals add up to almost $8 trillion of waste per year. Manufacturing waste reduction is, therefore, a crucial undertaking that should be high on the agenda of manufacturers around the world. Not only will proper manufacturing waste management protect the global economy and the environment, but eliminating waste in operations can also have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. 

The Eight Types of Manufacturing Waste

There are a number of different causes of waste, which can be categorized into 8 types:

  • Defects – a byproduct of defective products is wasted time and materials that could have been spent making a usable product. A manufacturing data collection system can help identify the root cause of the defects so that the problem can be fixed at the source.
  • Excess Processing – poor product design, lack of efficient communication and human error can all lead to extra steps taking place during the production process. This over-processing results in unnecessary waste. 
  • Overproduction – an example of waste in operations, producing extra product components before they are actually needed is a waste of time and resources.
  • Waiting – down time (i.e. when a machine isn’t working and is awaiting maintenance or when waiting for raw materials to arrive) is an example of lean manufacturing waste and may be a result of poor planning or scheduling.
  • Excess inventory – having more inventory than what’s needed to fill existing orders could lead to high storage costs and other issues and is a sign that it’s time to evaluate manufacturing waste management procedures.
  •  Transportation – improving the efficiency of transporting materials from location to location can significantly aid in a factory’s manufacturing waste reduction. 
  • Motion – any unnecessary motion – including both movement of machine parts when they are in operation mode and employees walking around to do a task manually that could be automated – is considered a non-value-add and adds to waste. 
  • Non-utilized talent – not using employees’ talents to their full capacity leads to a huge waste in operations, as company’s lose out on potential ideas, skills and improvements. 

How Can Manufacturers Reduce Waste?

While some argue that the end goal should be zero waste, this is highly unlikely for most manufacturers to achieve. Instead, the goal is manufacturing waste reduction, trying to limit the amount of waste to the bare minimum. Because you can’t improve what you don’t measure, a robust manufacturing data collection system plays a key role in manufacturing waste reduction. 

By monitoring and analyzing all aspects of the production process – including raw materials coming and in going out, machine downtime, and human roles and involvement – manufacturers can start to understand where their most wasteful areas are and work accordingly to reduce the waste. 

Steps that manufacturers can take to keep their manufacturing waste management on track include:

  • Conduct regular audits to identify areas where waste can be reduced.
  • Set clear manufacturing waste reduction goals and ensure that enough budget is allocated to the process.
  • Assign waste management and reduction tasks to specific employees.
  • Provide waste reduction training to all employees.
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What are the Benefits of Manufacturing Waste Reduction?

Manufacturing waste reduction will benefit individual businesses as well as the global economy and environment. By eliminating waste in operations and production, manufacturers will see reduced costs, fewer overtime hours, and better quality products. At the same time, carbon footprints and pollution will be reduced, creating a better planet for all. 

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