Applying Kaizen Principles Outside the Factory Floor

By Lianti Müller CMC

This was the theme of a workshop lead by Lianti Muller of Huron Solutions on 11 March 2010 at the REACH Centre in Clinton. The workshop was sponsored by the HMA and about 17 people from a variety of businesses attended the session. Here is a quick peek at the knowledge gained.

Identifying Waste in our Processes

Waste hides everywhere in our processes. We tend to overlook it, though, because we are preoccupied with busyness. We need to pause and ask ourselves what happens between the real value-adding steps in the day. Value-adding activities are:

  • An activity that the customer, if given the choice, is willing to pay for;
  • An activity that transforms a product or service;
  • An activity done correctly the first time.


All the rest of the activities are either “Pure Waste” or “Incidental Waste”. Incidental Wastes are activities you need because of system limitations, but in time, can be addressed.

Look for these 7 Types Wastes in your Day-to-Day Activities:

  1. Waiting – includes: people, parts, systems or facilities idly waiting for a work cycle upstream to be completed.
  2. Fixing Defects – includes: re-work, re-inspection, re-design, more cost, and unhappy customers.
  3. Transportation – the unnecessary movement of information or materials between processes.
  4. Storage or inventory – storing more materials than you need in the near-term; piling up work to do in one big batch (inbox).
  5. Motion – any movement of peoples’ bodies that does not add value to product or service.
  6. Extra processing – includes: multiple reviews/signatures, different ways to produce the same product (no standardized work)’ and batching work
  7. Under-utilized Creativity – people who work in the process and know the process best (both the strengths and weaknesses). Do they have the tools, training and permission to systematically improve their process?

Removing Wasteful Activities

If we are successful with identifying waste and remove it from our processes, we will be able to free up a big bulk of our time to do other value-adding activities. This means we can take on more orders and increase our output without really doing more work!


When you want to apply kaizen / Lean principles, keep the following in mind:

  • Abandon fixed ideas.
  • Think of ways to make it Possible.
  • No excuses.
  • Strive to make it BETTER, not necessarily the “best.”
  • Correct mistakes right away.
  • Use your wits, not your wallet.
  • Problems are Opportunities.
  • Ask “Why” 5 times.
  • Seek ideas from many people and sources.
  • There is no end to improvement!