Waste Elimination Using The Seven M’s of Management

Rooting out process or system wastes along with their causes is a key step for effective fat-to-lean transformation endeavor. A handful of Root Cause Analysis (RCA) tools can be used to eliminate wastes. However, institutionalizing a waste elimination culture requires adopting a structured RCA methodology rather than tools. And here where the seven M’s of management can be leveraged to serve as an RCA analytical approach to strip out wastes in any industry or business.

The seven M’s (Man, Method, Machine, Material, Measurement, Mother Nature, and Mindset)-with all their  variations- have been used in business management for so long. Though, in the book Driving Operational Excellence by Ron Crabtree– the seven M’s are leveraged creatively by linking them to the Eight Types of Waste.

Before digging deeper in how the seven M’s can be used in waste elimination, let’s have a quick overview on the definition of each component:

  1. Man refers to the manual and mental skills used by a person to execute an assignment.
  2. Method is the sequence and steps necessary to convert material or information into a product or service.
  3. Machine is a mechanical, electrical or electronically-operated device used to perform a task.
  4. Material is the physical matter or information converted or acted on to create another form with added value.
  5. Measurement refers to an action using a physical device to record a characteristic and compare it to a standard or expected outcome. Notice that Measurement is a possible cause of waste only if the cause is the instrument itself. If the person taking the measurement causes the error, waste is categorized as either Man or Methods.
  6. Mother Nature is the environment and immediate surroundings of the task or process. Examples of Mother Nature are weather, humidity, moisture, temperature, wind, noise, dust, odors, lighting, ground, and vibration.
  7. Mindset refers to the fixed mental attitude about a situation, event or belief. It may be derived from culture, value system, experience, or management directives. Mindset as a cause of waste is characterized by inflexibility, and it does not allow for change or new ideas.

The seven M’s-eight Wastes root cause analysis approach is premised on investigating each type of waste from the perspective of every “M”. Each type of waste is examined as a prospect effect of an M, then analysis is continued until the root cause is caught. The cycle continues for each recognized waste against the 7 M’s. Fishbone Diagram and Mind Mapping are excellent tools to visualize the analysis.

In investigating prospect causes that effect Defect as the first type of waste, the effect is mapped to each one of the 7 M’s as shown in the below mind-map. Then, each M is further probed to dig out a probable root cause. For Man, lack of training or poor skills could lead to producing defected output of a process. Looking through the Machine lens, lack of preventive maintenance or wearing out tools would result in a lower throughput yield. From the perspective of Mindset, a “we’ve always done that” culture is a prime fallacy that accepts defects and elects to maintain the status quo. At the end, all M’s are scrutinized against the selected waste type until root causes are identified.

Mapping Defect as an effected Waste to the Seven M’s

Once root causes are identified efforts are directed towards eliminating them. If high percentage of defects, for instance, is deemed a  consequence of insufficient job training, proper training programs should be compiled to develop the skills of the workforce. And if using raw material with inconsistent quality causes defected products, improvement efforts could be extended to the supplier’s premises rather than manipulating machine parameters to absorb material inconsistencies.

Root cause analysis of Wastes through the lenses of the seven M’s is a creative lean thinking. In one way, it allows lean practitioners to look into causes from different angles. At the same time, it provides a structured methodology that enables standardization across the organization in hunting for root causes without overlooking many of the hidden wastes.

Although it is far from being comprehensive, I have compiled a set of mind-maps each represents associations between one type of the eight wastes with the seven M’s as causes. Each M is then branched out with prospect root causes. You can download the maps file below. Try it in your workplace and share your experience in the comments box.

DOWNTIME: The Eight Types of Waste

The difference between a lean and a fat organization is waste. Lean + Waste = Fat, if you will. Hence, for an organization to transform into a lean state it should trim as much waste as possible. But, what is Waste anyways? and what variant shapes could waste take?

The difference between a lean and a fat organization is waste. Lean + Waste = Fat, if you will. Hence, for an organization to transform into a lean state it should trim as much waste as possible. But, what is Waste anyways? and what variant shapes could waste take?

In my previous post “The State of Being Lean or Fat Is a Matter of your Own Choice” I discussed the Waste Elimination Process which comprises six steps to transform into a lean state. In the second step (Recognize the Wastes), different types of waste are to be identified in the process under study. In particular, the lean transformation practitioner is hunting anything that is characterized by two related attributes which are value and pay.

Waste, muda in Japanese, is anything that does not add value to the product or service, and hence the customer is not willing to pay for. Are you willing to pay an extra USD 20 for a shirt that is priced at USD 50 just because it is packed in a fancy, carton box rather than being wrapped in a plastic cover? Considering identical fabric quality of shirts in both cases, I am confident you won’t. From a different perspective, will moving some raw material from a warehouse to a production line- that is 50 meters far- add any value to the quality of its product? Absolutely not, and the customer will not accept paying for this extra transportation.

In addition to the clear definition of waste, there are eight agreed on types of waste in Lean philosophy that make it even easier to recognize wastes in any setting. Luckily, these eight types can be combined in one word, that is DOWNTIME. Each letter in DOWNTIME represents the first letter of one type of waste.

The Eight Types of Waste

Below is a breakdown of DOWNTIME into the eight types of waste along with their definitions:

Defect is a product or information that does not meet customer expectations. It could be a damaged or improperly-functioning computer screen. In service industry, it could be delivery of a courier shipment to the wrong address or late delivery of a shipment to the consignee.

Overproduction is producing material or information more than required or before being required by the downstream customer. For example, the production of 20 tons of a product for a customer order of 18 tons- maybe to make up for some prospect defected quantity- is a form of overproduction. Make-to-stock, rather than make-to-sell, is another shape of overproduction.

Waiting is for a person or a machine to remain idle due to lack of information or material required to continue operation. Halting production on a machine due to being out of stock of one required raw material is a common form of Waiting waste.

Neglected Resources is neglecting, ignoring, or misusing the best resources available for the application at the time. This represents the underutilization of talents, state-of-the-art equipment, and advanced technology. In my early career days as Improvement Specialist, I developed dozens of Microsoft Office Access and Excel VBA-enabled macros that converted manual accounting processes that had consumed hours to finish into automatic steps finishing in seconds. Failure to leverage existing resources is a prevalent waste in most workplaces.

Transportation is the unnecessary movement of material or information that does not add value to meet the customer’s requirements. For instance, the frequent movement of raw materials from storage areas to the point of production is a widespread, unfavorable practice in the manufacturing industry.

Inventory represents material (raw or finished) or initial information in a queue. Inventory is usually depicted in piles of finished goods in a warehouse made without customers’ orders. And in the shop floor, inventory takes the shape of work-in-progress (WIP) of partially finished goods awaiting processing by a downstream process step.

Motion is unnecessary movement by people in a process. Excessive bending, walking, reaching, or any form of human body movement is considered a wasteful effort in a production process or a service delivery. For that, meticulous facility and workplace planning should be practiced when setting up the layout and sequence of process steps such that motion is minimized.

Extra-processing is committed if more features, information, or work are provided than what is required by the customer. This form of waste is usually exhibited in excessive, unnecessary packaging of products. It can also be incurred when additional, unplanned process steps are performed to meet the requirements. For instance, re-packing old products stored in a warehouse to remove dirt or replace worn out packaging is extra-processing that was unneeded in the first place.

Recognizing the eight types of waste is one critical step in the Lean transformation endeavor. Trimming the fat in any process requires lean professionals to identify each waste type then to measure it as a baseline for improvement. Although critical, recognizing wastes without eliminating their root causes dooms the improvement efforts to failure. Hence, the next critical step in the Waste Elimination Process is identifying and eliminating the root causes of waste. And that will be the subject of one of my future posts.

The State of Being Lean or Fat is a Matter of Your Own Choice

Lean is a culture and way of life rather than being a methodology. And the recipe for a successful transformation hinges on root cause analysis, sustainability, and continuous improvement. At the end, being lean or fat for an organization is an outcome of its own internal practices.

Being lean or fat for an organization is an outcome of its own internal practices. Likewise, the transformation process from one state to the other can be achieved at its own discretion. However, not all fat-lean transformations are healthy. Amongst the three fat-lean transition forms that organizations usually undergo only the fat-to-lean one is the savior leading to survival in turbulent times.

Most organizations which fail transitioning from fat to lean blame on the improvement methodologies they have adopted. Yet, in most cases the fact is not. During my two decades of experience in the manufacturing and service industries I have seen fat businesses embracing lean concepts but would not have trimmed a ‘kilogram’ from their bodies. I.e. they remained fat. And this is the first type of transformation; fat-to-fat.

Fat-to-fat type of organizations usually fail due to ineffectiveness in implementation. For the process of lean transformation to be effective root causes of waste should be eliminated, not the waste itself. For instance, converting defected product to second grade does not trim waste since the root cause remains haunting the manufacturing process, and the waste (defect) will recur. In another scene, clearing the production area from overproduction and stacking it in the warehouse will not do good for your shape as you convert overproduction into inventory, which is another type of waste. Hence, root causes of defects, overproduction, inventory, and other types of waste should be your target in the lean transformation journey.

Lean-to-fat transition is no better than fat-to-fat. It is even worse a case of transition but for a different reason of failure, which is lack of control. People on a weight loss plan must sustain their lean shape when they reach their optimum weight by committing to specific diet and exercises. Otherwise, they will revert to their old state. Similarly, a lean organization ought to deploy rigorous control procedures and standards so that people do not revert to the previous fatty operating model.

The third type of fat-lean transformation, fat-to-lean, is on the other end of the spectrum, and is the ideal transition that secures effectiveness as well as sustainability. Institutionalizing and sustaining a robust transformation process is key to achieving and sustaining a lean state.

This Waste Elimination process embraces the universal concept of process improvement depicted in many other methodologies such as PDCA, DMAIC, and 8-Disciplines. It starts by studying the process under transformation. Then, wastes need to be recognized and measured to form the current state and to have a baseline of improvement. After that, root causes of the wastes need to be identified and eliminated. The last step, which is the most crucial, is sustaining the outcome state of the process through updated procedures, control plans, and standardization.

Waste Elimination Process

Lean is a culture and way of life rather than being a methodology. And the recipe for a successful transformation hinges on root cause analysis, sustainability, and continuous improvement. While it is not a rocket science, the waste elimination process can help you kick start your journey towards a leaner state. Besides, my coming post on the Eight Types of Waste will make your life even easier in recognizing loads of fat in your organization.