What is waste and how is it different from value-added tasks?

Kaizen revolves around the identification and elimination of wastes. By implementing Kaizen, businesses are able to improve production and streamline efficiency, enabling them to achieve the same or better metrics while decreasing or maintaining the costs of production.

But what is a waste? Wastes may not be apparent in every business setting, InformIt explains. Even in highly productive companies, wastes can still exist – they may not be actively working against production, but they could be a limiting factor. It's important that executives, managers and frontline employees are all able to identify potential wastes, regardless of the impact level they have on production.

Understanding value

Every business has sources of value. Values are some sort of benefits, whether they apply to operations, employees or finished products in the hands of customers. For example, a particular process is valuable if it improves the quality of a product or otherwise saves companies money. Most companies focus on maximizing value, and by doing so, they believe they eke out the most profit.

However, there is an opposite side to the value equation. Just as there are value-added actions, there are non-value added operations. These are comprised of work that doesn't enhance the quality of products or processes and exists either because of bureaucracy or because managers and workers haven't put the time and effort into finding other ways of doing things.

Bureaucratic wastes tend to be business requirements necessitated by law. For example, companies may be required to train employees to perform certain tasks, even if the training programs are redundant. They could also be compliance-related – for instance, limiting the amount of carbon that a business produces, which forces the company to operate less efficiently. Businesses must comply with these requirements, but there may be ways to minimize their impact (such as going Lean and green).

The other type of non-value is pure waste. This includes product imperfections, red tape that hinders efficiency, excessive meetings, overanalyzing production and recording meaningless metrics. These are wastes that don't add any value from a production or compliance standpoint and can be corrected through innovation. Kaizen events can help employees and managers identify solutions to these problems.