The Seven Wastes: A Core Concept of LEAN
You have probably heard about and may be familiar with “LEAN” practices implemented by public and private organizations. Beginning in the manufacturing industry, LEAN practices have spread to banking, health care, law, environmental management, and many other occupations whose practices affect our daily lives. It’s expected that an increased number of Hoteliers will soon be implementing LEAN practices at their properties’ in the near future.
Though LEAN may be a familiar term, an understanding of the essential elements of LEAN varies from one person to the next. Therefore the intention of this article is to introduce its core elements to the hospitality community and discuss the LEAN practice associated with recognizing and eliminating waste that can occur in any process.
A Brief History of LEAN
While the evolution of LEAN may be traced to many individuals (e.g. Frederick Taylor, Frank Gilbreth) going back more than a century, Henry Ford and Kiichiro Toyoda (Founder of Toyota) are among the most prominent individuals credited for its evolution. Henry Ford is notably prominent due to his focus on the importance of a flowing assembly line process of production. Kiichiro Toyoda is notably prominent in that he expanded on various aspects of the flow production process including the elimination of waste.
The Core Idea of LEAN
Over time LEAN practitioners have extended its application from processes that provide products to processes that provide services. The term “process” may be broadly defined as a series of linked tasks or activities having the purpose of creating and delivering a product or service. While the many facets of LEAN have evolved, according to the LEAN Enterprise Institute the core idea of LEAN is to “maximize customer value while minimizing waste.” Although this core idea may vary somewhat depending on the LEAN book or article you read, or what website you review, the essential idea is providing value to the customer while keeping waste to a minimum.
The key to providing value to the customer and minimizing waste is not simply being “satisfied” that you have a process delivering a service or product to your customer. The key to LEAN’s success is achieved by implementing continuous process improvements that sustain customer value while minimizing waste. Thus the fundamental perspective of LEAN is its “persistent” focus on continuous process improvement.
Essential Elements of LEAN
The essential elements of LEAN are comprised of principles, systems, techniques, practices and culture. LEAN principles provide the discipline to focus on continuous process improvement. LEAN systems facilitate processes (e.g. business process) that deliver an organization’s services or products. An important characteristic of these systems is that the systems support continuous process improvement.
LEAN techniques are methods used to evaluate processes to make sure they are “always” functioning at their optimum. These evaluative techniques are implemented for the purpose of supporting continuous process improvements. LEAN practices provide a framework for processes to consistently provide value to customers while supporting continuous process improvement. Finally, LEAN culture refers to an organization wide culture that embraces and supports maximizing value to the customer while minimizing wastes.
The Seven Wastes
Because a brief newsletter article cannot do justice in covering the many essential LEAN elements, and after this cursory introduction to LEAN, this article focuses on one of the LEAN principles which is recognizing and eliminating the seven (7) wastes. Considering the core idea of LEAN is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste, recognizing and eliminating these wastes enhances the service processes we perform every day.
The seven wastes recognized by LEAN are associated with Waiting Time, Over-production, Over-processing, Defects, Movement, Inventory and Transportation. Each of these wastes are relevant to some aspect of a service process. Some of these wastes are more applicable and apparent at the level of individual activities, while others are more applicable at the level of the organization. None-the-less the seven wastes are defined as follows.
1. Waiting time refers to the time spent waiting on others or on equipment in order for a process activity to be completed. Waiting time contributes to delays and increases time required to complete a process. All of us have experienced waiting time at work and in our daily lives.
2. Over-production refers to producing more than what is needed. Performing a service that is not needed is certainly inefficient and may contribute to waiting time. Producing a product in excess of what is needed creates unnecessary inventory.
3. Over-processing occurs when more work is expended to perform a process activity then what is actually necessary to satisfy customer demand or requirements. Exceeding customer demand and/or requirements consumes additional process time and budget.
4. Defects are perhaps the most obvious of all the seven wastes. Defects apply to any aspect of a service that does not conform to customer requirements. Factors that contribute to defects include but are not limited to lack of a standard, unclear work instructions, inefficient process, flawed materials, and malfunctioning equipment.
5. Movement is recognized as a waste in the context of physical actions that are inefficient in the execution of a process activity. We can all recognize many examples of motion waste that may include having to leave our work station to retrieve documents necessary to accomplish an activity, or having to shift between different computer applications to accomplish an activity.
6. Inventory waste refers to storing unnecessary materials that are either not used or in excess of what is needed to perform a process. While inventory may be more applicable at the organizational level, you can see that inventory consumes budget.
7. Transportation waste is associated with the inefficient transport of people, materials or equipment from one location to another. While this waste may not be as applicable at the individual level, if you consider all the transportation activities performed by an organization then it certainly represents a potential waste to an organization.
An important LEAN principle requires being aware of the seven wastes. Recognizing which of the seven wastes are occurring and the degree they are occurring in a process represents the initial step in eliminating the waste. As eluded to in a previous paragraph, other LEAN elements (systems, techniques, and practices) can be applied not only to eliminate the waste from a process, but also to ensure it does not creep back into a process through the practice of continuous process improvements.
Curtis Watkins, Secretary-Treasurer
American Green Lodging and Hospitality Association
While conducting an onsite assessment in Central Florida, I found myself walking into a hotel room on the 8th floor of a 4 star property that had a horrible foul odor. Unbelievably, it smelled like a combination of rotting meat and cat urine. It was so bad that my partner assisting me with the assessment had to leave the room; her eyes tearing and trying to keep down her lunch as she darted for the door.
Accompanying us on this assessment were the hotel‘s General Manager and the Chief Engineer, both in suits. Earlier, when we first walked into this otherwise immaculate room, I looked up and noticed that both gentlemen had turned a bit pale, their jaws dropped and mouths open. Without saying a word, their faces said it all, ‘Oh no, not this room.’ It was a surprise to all of us because the assessment to this point had been going so smoothly. Everything looked great. The recycling was in place, they had plenty of high efficiency lighting, green cleaners were being used throughout the hotel and each room we previously assessed had everything needed that would allow us to conclude that this property was on its way to being considered sustainable. So what happened? I asked the GM “what’s the story with this room?” He replied “We’re not sure. We’ve been dealing with this smell for the past few months.” I asked “So this room has been out of service for that long?” To my amazement the Chief Engineer answered “No, not really. Every opportunity when the room is vacant, we place an ozonator in it to kill the odor.”
My search began. I looked closely at the ceiling, paying particular attention to the area where the ceiling met the wall. The GM asked what I was looking for. I explained that I was looking for signs of moisture and mold. I said, “Even though I’ve never experienced smelling any room this bad, I suspect the odor is being caused by mold.” Next, I got down on my hands and knees and proceeded to crawl the perimeter of the room as best I could, feeling the carpet along the way for moisture. I got about a third of the way around the room when there was a knock at the door. The GM opened the door and my partner asked the three of us to come out in the hall to take a look at what she had found. The room was at the end of the hallway, and between the stairwell and the door of the room stood the icemaker, positioned directly on top of a floor made of what appeared to be medium sized terracotta tiles. On the floor, just to the right of the icemaker and barely visible, was what appeared to be a small puddle of water. With a smirk on her face, my partner suggested we look under the icemaker. We looked at each other, and jockeyed for the best view as we got down on our knees. It was a bit dark under the machine, so I pulled out my flashlight and shined it underneath. What we saw immediately gave us the answer to what was causing that disgusting odor in the room. A clear flexible hose which was draining the machine was not properly positioned in the floor drain as it should have been, but was lying up against the wall. You could clearly see that the area directly around the floor drain was dry while the water coming out of the hose was not increasing the size of the puddle. So where was the water going? It appeared to be wicking under the wall that was adjoining the room in question. I got up, went back into the room and stood in front the wall that was on the other side of the icemaker. I bent down in front of an electrical receptacle and took a whiff. Not the smartest thing to do. The source of the odor was clearly behind that wall. The Engineer pulled a multi-tool out of his pocket, opened it up to a flathead screwdriver and began unscrewing the plate of the receptacle. The plate dropped to the floor revealing a black cottony material inside. It was mold, and lots of it.
So how did this happen? Maybe the drain hose got knocked out when someone from housekeeping was cleaning the dust from under the icemaker or maybe someone from Engineering forgot to properly position the hose the last time the unit’s filter was replaced. In either case, this seemingly small mistake set off a chain of events that would cause this property a great deal of aggravation and money. But what were the environmental costs and how much did this incident set back the property’s sustainable efforts?
Understandably, the property was very tight-lipped about the extent of the damage and the cost to repair it. However, I later learned that the water made its way down to the first floor, and the repairs were highly disruptive and quite costly. Most likely, many parts of the hotel, including the HVAC systems became contaminated with mold spores which under the right conditions could have caused mold to the growth and spread. According to the Mayo Clinic, millions suffer from Chronic Sinusitis, most likely caused by allergies to molds and fungus. How did this impact the long-term indoor environmental quality of the hotel and the health of the guest and the associates that work there? And how did the ozone used to deodorize the room affect the property’s indoor air quality while in use? Did the chemical cleaners used to kill the mold during the repairs give off VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or other gases that may have affected human health and safety? Did any of the conditions such as the odors generated by this event cause a loss in customer satisfaction?
What were some other possible environmental impacts? Undoubtedly, a great deal of solid waste was generated in the course of ripping out the drywall and insulation, cleaning supporting structures and rebuilding the damaged walls. How much additional energy and water was consumed as a result of this mishap.
Each day across this country, the hospitality industry consumes as much water as 1.6 million families consume in a year; they generate garbage each day equal to what 4 million families generate each year; and they account for greenhouse gas equivalent to that produced by almost 4 M vehicles. I’m certain the industry can do better and consume less. Why, because I’ve been involved with the assessment of hundreds of properties and seen the tremendous amount of resources and money wasted each day because many in the industry are still not vigilant when it comes to preventative maintenance or looking for the most basic opportunities to save. Many hoteliers are still unable or unwilling to include in their daily routines the task of looking to prevent needles energy and water consumption, minimize solid and hazardous waste and stop the degradation of indoor environmental quality.
Here’s the good news. When a property takes the time and makes that extra effort to involve its management and associates in looking for opportunities to prevent waste and become more efficient, the property becomes more environmentally, socially and financially sustainable.
Welcome to AGLHA!
So you want to make a difference! Here’s your chance. AGLHA is a grass roots organization, propelled by concerned professionals and colleagues that are focused on doing the right thing for the environment, while also making the lodging and hospitality industry more socially and economically sustainable.
We’re not interested in selling “green” products or promoting individual companies that provide environmentally friendly goods and services. We are interested in providing the industry with unbiased information on just about everything from ways to efficiently manage your solid and hazardous waste to how to conduct a full facility assessment.
Because we are a young organization, much of the technical assistance and training we hope to offer will take time to develop. Your interest and involvement in AGLHA will help us grow. I encourage you to regularly check our website for new tools and information.
All of us can contribute to the success in supporting sustainable hospitality practices. In the next few months, membership and supporting opportunities will be opening. I hope you’ll join us! In the meantime, please feel free to contact me at Wende.Blumberg.AGLHA@gmail.com or our President, Peter Goren at Peter.Goren.AGLHA@gmail.com .