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A Word in Line Control

TIMWOODWhat’s in a word? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet after all. However – a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and over simplification can change the entire nature of a message.

Here is a prime example, a quick search of the internet will show you the 7-wastes defined in Lean, often quoted as TIMWOOD – Transportation, Inventory, etc.

Taking one of them – Inventory (but it applies to more of them) – it’s easy to follow the logic that Inventory is a Waste, Work in Progress (WIP) is part of Inventory, so all WIP must be bad – we must eliminate WIP.

However, as several businesses we have come across had previously experienced (efficiencies halved, customer service dropping off a cliff), the reality is somewhat different. One business owner, having suffered a fall in factory efficiency by 25% after installing a conveying system to remove the need for WIP between processes was quoted as saying “it would be have been less painful to take £1million in cash out of the bank and have a bonfire with it in the car park.”

Does that mean that Lean is wrong? Well, go back to the original source, and you’ll see that the waste is actually defined as “Excess Inventory“, not “Inventory” – and there in one word can lie the world of difference! Lean defines everything as a either Value Adding, or Waste – and if that WIP is adding value to your business because it’s acting as accumulation, and protecting a bottleneck, then it’s not something you want to get rid off in a hurry!

With line control theory, it is easy to spot what is waste, and what is value adding – so invest in Line Control training for your workforce, and put the word out.

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