Business & Management The principles of Lean

Wasteful thinking – how to understand the value stream

An article written by my colleague and Print/Packaging industry columnist, Andrew Malson. This piece has been segmented for the blog and complements previous articles by him.

This article first appeared in WHERE To Print magazine.


In this article I begin to further discuss Lean methodology by looking at waste as a concept; what it is, how to identify it and how, in some areas, to eradicate it (but most crucially, reduce it). I have tried to give actual examples for each of the waste categories but as I began to write, it struck me how broad a topic this is, therefore this article, and the following in the waste series, is merely a catalyst for the reader’s own participation in value stream/waste processes.

Understanding waste and therefore value, is a mindset. Thinking of everything in the productive cycle, whether that’s as a production or administration operation, in waste and value terms will create actions to reduce waste and improve value.

Think of the “value stream”, where every component and every action adds value to the final delivered product. When the imaginary stream is straight, each process creates value, when the stream doesn’t flow directly forward, the process is creating waste. 

The mnemonic

As a reminder of the 7 waste categories, TIMWOOD is about as good as any but I’ve seen TIMWOODS and DOTWIMP, it depends on who your trainer is and their preference but the headline categories are the same. 

T                              –                            Transport

I                               –                             Inventory

M                           –                             Motion

W                            –                             Waiting

O                             –                             Overproduction

O                             –                             Overprocessing

D                             –                             Defect

S                              –                             Skills

As the concept was designed as part of the Toyota Production System one might also hear the word, “Muda” being used; this is a Japanese word for waste and not a mnemonic (or an acronym). One important area that is a waste, but is not discussed here (primarily as it is a topic all of its own) is variation. Variation brings us teetering to the outer reaches of Lean and into Six Sigma territory; yes, I know that many practitioners lump them to create “Lean Six Sigma” but I see distinct differences, and advantages, in approaching them entirely separately. Here I discuss waste in the term as  associated with Lean methodology.

In practical terms

Almost all of the above have limitations to their level of elimination and some require context to understand why we might choose to ignore them. What is important is that each of them are understood and that understanding allows us to apply value thinking to how we approach them. I suppose there could be another T added to the above and that would be “Thinking”. Overthinking a problem, or worse, trying to solve a problem over which you have zero impact, is wasteful, so choose your areas of improvement wisely (I had this debate with a GM recently, he had a habit of trying to solve issues outside of his area of control or influence; extremely wasteful and utterly pointless).


If you’ve had any modicum of success in your business, you will probably look around today and see a plant configuration very different to the day you started. That’s not a bad thing, actually it’s testament to the fact that you’ve done well and have outgrown your original floorplan but now your site is probably inefficient.

In a recent assignment, I controlled a large site that had grown rapidly over time, the original site was now being used for pre-press, admin and warehousing and the “new” building housed numerous presses and finishing equipment. Unfortunately, the die cutting equipment, sited between the presses and the gluing department, interrupted the efficient flow (transport) of materials, tooling and WIP in and out of the area. This, in turn, affected safety, productivity and created a bottleneck in the whole production cycle. I took the difficult but necessary decision to change the position, a decision based on the analysis of waste. This resulted in a safer department, higher output and completely eliminated the bottleneck within the department.

In another posting, I moved the location of the platemaking area to bring it closer to the presses, thereby reducing the risk of damage, improving the communication between departments and eliminated another waste, Over-processing (ultimately, the print department became responsible for outputting their own plates JIT).

Transport also highlights the use of tooling. As I outlined in my previous article on 5S, frequency is in direct correlation to proximity. If you are using tooling, for plate changes, die changes etc on an hourly basis then keep the tools with you, a separate tool belt for each operator is the ideal (creates ownership and reduces breakage and loss) but a belt for each shift or machine might be more cost effective in the beginning.

Thinking of transport in terms of touch and of flow helps to realise where the inefficiencies are. Touch it as few times as possible and make the process flow with as little interruption as possible (this is also a factor of waste in an office and gave rise to the “touch it once” concept of document management and is a another principle of 5S).

(c) Andrew Malson 2020

Future articles will discuss further the TIMWOOD mnemonic and will appear here in Business Manager

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