Waste Elimination: The Common Denominator for Improving Operations

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/02635579310043912
Publication Date01 August 1993
Pages13-19
Date01 August 1993
AuthorSubhashish Samaddar,Lance Heiko
SubjectEconomics,Information & knowledge management,Management science & operations
WASTE ELIMINATION; THE COMMON DENOMINATOR FOR IMPROVING OPERATIONS 13
Waste
Elimination:
The Common
Denominator
for Improving
Operations
Subhashish Samaddar and Lance Heiko
Industrial Management & Data Systems,
Vol.
93
No.
8
1993,
pp. 13-19
© MCB University Press Limited, 0263-5577
Sometimes the reasons for success are in-
correctly observed and become buried under
jargon and misbeliefs.
World economic competition is intensifying. Market
demands are changing rapidly. New technologies are
constantly appearing. Rapid economic development is
bringing into the world market high technology products
from formerly traditional societies. Even if a business
were on the right track, a more nimble competitor may
get ahead by laying down a new track. In these
circumstances business as usual is a prescription for
disaster.
Business executives talk constantly about the difficulties
in making money, but tend to ignore the waste which
surrounds, them and overlook opportunities for
improvement
inside
their own organizations. They spend
resources in exploring and adopting new approaches/
techniques such as Flexible Manufacturing Systems
(FMS),
Quality
Circles
(QC),
Cellular Manufacturing
(CM),
Group Technology (GT), Total Quality Management
(TQM),
Just-In-Time (JIT), and so on, and tend to forget
that the main challenge of efficient and effective
production and operations is to utilize their own
ingenuity and common-sense, and to create an
environment for others to use them, too. Business
executives are preoccupied with downsizing or joining
the latest bandwagon of new techniques rather than
getting involved in fundamental improvement activities.
Since the mid-1980s, simply adopting new operations
management techniques as a panacea for lower
productivity or less effectiveness, without a thorough
understanding of the challenges and requirements for
implementing them successfully, has led
to
failures. In the
process, however, managers have lost hope and labour
has
become more
sceptical.
A
recent
case is the late
1980s'
dramatic popularity of
FMSs
for mid-size manufacturers,
called by Terry Hill and Stuart Chambers[l] the "We-
need-to-compete-by-being-more-flexible" syndrome. In
their recent
article,
they have pointed out how the idea
of
manufacturing flexibility has been confusing for users
and has led
to
a manufacturing conundrum.
Furthermore, sometimes the reasons for success are
incorrectly observed and even become buried under
jargon and popular misbeliefs. For example, consider
Japan's economic success of the past two decades. For
much of the time, informed opinion in the USA was that
Japanese success was due to low wages or to the
uniqueness of their culture. It was not until the writings
in English of
Monden[2],
Schonberger[3] and
Hall[4]
that
the new way of thinking about production which was
pioneered by Toyota started to diffuse within the USA.
Meanwhile, Toyota had been spreading its approach
widely inside Japan. The pioneers of the Toyota
Production System (TPS) were Ohno[5] and Shingo[6].
Ohno,
himself,
coined the English expression "Just-in-
time"
to characterize the system. Another example of
incorrect observation and jargon
is the
confusion between
"kanban method" and the Toyota Production System
(TPS).
Singho[6,
p.xxvii]
has pointed out that:
... 90 per cent of Toyota's excellent management
performance was attributed to the Toyota Production
System itself and
only 10 per cent to the
kanban method...
According to Shingo the TPS is a production system
which thrives on waste elimination and the kanban
method is merely a means of controlling the system.
It is well known that there is
too
much waste in our work
environment[7]. Waste here is defined as anything other
than the minimum amount of resources' which are
absolutely essential to add value to the product.
Resources include equipment, parts, materials, space,
energy, worker's time, and so
on.
The philosophy here is
that anything
which does
not add value
is
a
waste.
Such a

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