“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.”
According to Taiichi Ohno, the father of lean and one of the forerunners of Lean Manufacturing and was part of the team that developed the Toyota Production System, one of the first steps to becoming lean is to eliminate waste in a process. In 1988, he defined seven types of Muda. An eighth Muda was added later on.
In Lean Manufacturing, Overproduction is the second type of waste. Overproduction is making too much or too soon. This Muda results in the waste of time, money, and other resources. If a car manufacturer produces one hundred more cars than needed each production cycle, that means the company needs to store, maintain, and update the surplus of cars until they are needed. This results in the need for more storage facilities, maintenance checks, staff, reports, etc. Overproduction means engaging and sacrificing resources when or where they are not needed.
In Lean Office, producing too much of any product or service can negatively impact your business and sacrifice your efficiency. Whether it is developing too many features for your product launch, printing too many copies of your newest report, or CC’ing too many people in your email; overproduction means spending effort before it is needed. That means you are dedicating time, effort, money, and resources that could be better utilized or deployed in other value-adding activities that could help you better develop your product. This can also lead to more waste by increasing the amount of work in progress.
The Muda of Overproduction in the office can take (but are not limited to) any of the following forms:
- Any extra or redundant work
- Printing extra copies
- Printing documents (that might change) before needed
- Processing orders (that might change) before needed
- Redundancies in reports and filing systems
- Extra rows in an excel sheet
- Features that were not requested by your client
- Unneeded reports
- Unneeded primary research
- Emails to people that do not need to be cc’d
- Hiring more people than needed
Overproduction in the office is the result of unreliable processes, unstable schedules, inaccurate forecasts, unclear client requirements, poor or no automation, and miscommunication.
Lean asks you to synchronize internally. This means that each department is not an isolated silo but well-integrated, well-synchronized cells. By understanding what each department or individual is doing, you can eliminate redundant work and consequently eliminate overproduction. Another helpful tip is to plan ahead and plan strategically- this means defining the scope of work of each project or process.