What A Waste: Motion
©2020, George J. Irwin. All rights reserved.

Here's a simple example of one of the Deadly Wastes that we look to minimize using Lean. And it takes place every day, several times a day, right in my own kitchen. That waste is Motion, more specifically, excess motion. Let's have a look.

First, let's establish that I'm a confirmed tea drinker. The vast majority of the time, that's decaffeinated tea. (I know: What's the point?) I have an electric kettle which heats water much faster than the traditional kettle on the stove, but there's a problem: it tends to dribble hot water onto the kitchen counter as I'm pouring it into the cup. Well, no, only I tend to dribble the hot water; my wife pours hot water for tea with no issues.

In order to prevent spilling nearly boiling water on the counter, I take the kettle off its base, bring it and the mug with the tea bag and sugar already inside, and bring it over to the sink. That way, if I spill anything, it goes right into the sink instead of on the counter or myself. Then I take the kettle and the filled mug back over to the other side of the kitchen and put them both on the counter, the kettle in its proper place and the mug with tea being brewed.

And this... is a waste.

Other than the obvious fix of my learning to pour water out of a kettle without spilling it, there is clearly room for improvement here. I am walking needless distance to and from the sink. It would make more sense if I used the power outlet on the same side of the kitchen as the sink for the electric kettle. I would only have to reach over to take the kettle instead of walking over with it. It would be even better to use the specific power outlet that is to the right of the sink instead of the one that is to the left of the sink, since I am right-handed and I would pick up the kettle as I naturally do.

What are referred to as "Lean Events," at least where I've worked, frequently include the careful documenting of all motion that takes place as part of an activity, followed by an unrelenting analysis of every step and movement to see where it can be changed or eliminated entirely. More applicable examples than the one in which I'm making tea without making a mess include:

Lowering the number of times an office worker has to walk across the room to locate a physical file.

Reducing reaching high above or below for an item needed to complete an order. Like many other motion studies, this depends on magnitude. If this item is low volume, and relocating it closer means that something needed more frequently is moved farther away, that's not a good idea.

Not having to type the same sequence of characters to fill out a form online. This can be replaced with a keyboard shortcut, or a macro.

While it may seem trivial when taken one single motion at a time, the cliché of "it adds up" definitely applies here. Suppose you typed the same sequence 200 times a day, and so did 20 of your co-workers, five days a week?

As for the cup of tea example… well, I actually do need the steps...

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