Let’s Talk Lean: Part 1

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of 7th graders today about what I do as a Manufacturing Engineer. I asked them if they knew what “Lean” meant, and after a few blank stares I got my favorite response: “Lean, like meat?” I chuckled and said, “Actually, that is a great example that we can work with!” I explained that lean meat doesn’t have a lot of fat or what we, in the manufacturing world, would call waste. In the manufacturing world, lean means little to no waste in our process.

When breaking down a process, we define what steps in the process are considered to be “Value Added” and “Non-Value Added.” Value Added is defined as anything that changes the form, fit or function of the product or service. It is anything the customer is willing to pay for, and it is getting the job done right the first time.

Anything that is not Value Added is Non-Valued Added (of course), and would be considered waste.

To help eliminate non-value added steps or functions in a process and start leaning our your process, it is easiest to start by looking for the eight common wastes that can be applied to virtually any work environment. This week, I will walk you through the Eight Wastes in hopes of helping you identify waste in your own work environment and perhaps introduce a bit of lean into your life!


The Eight Wastes can be remembered with a simple acronym: DOWNTIME




Non-Utilized Talent




Extra Processing

Starting with Defects and Over-production, I will define the type of waste and list a couple examples as well as a few common causes and countermeasures.


Definition: Defects can be defined as work or product that does not meet specific standards, lacks critical information and/or contains errors.


  • A part out of tolerance
  • A form that is missing pertinent information
  • An assembly missing a component

All of these defects create rework. Rework means we didn’t get it right the first time and that means it is NOT value added.


  • Lack of specifications
    • Are you relaying the requirements clearly and effectively?
  • Lack of in-process inspection
    • Allows defects to go through the line and continue to occur at that point in the process, creating a surmounting pile of defects.
  • Lack of defect recognition


  • Clear Specifications
  • Proper Training
  • In-process Inspection


Definition: Overproduction is when you produce product in a faster period of time than is required or in a higher quantity than is needed. Overproduction can also be defined as redundant work.


  • Duplicate Work
  • Unnecessary copies of paperwork
  • Providing more information than is necessary
  • Producing to keep the stock room full even though there is no Purchase Order for the product


  • Prepping inventory supply “just in case”
  • Batch processing
  • Poor communication


  • Define what is actually needed and only make what you need in the time that is required!


Tomorrow I will move farther down the DOWNTIME list of waste.

Can you recognize any defects or overproduction at your work or even in your personal life? Leave a comment and tell me what you have found!


Graphic: Goleansixsigma.com 

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