A New Typology of Waste

Advocates of Lean Thinking are fond of defining categories of waste in manufacturing operations, most of them derived from Taiichi Ohno’s original list of seven categories of waste, namely: defects, inventory, over-processing, waiting, motion, unnecessary transportation and over-production.

In a service context, more types of waste can be described, not all of which fit neatly into Taiichi Ohno’s original listing, for instance:

  • Multiple customer contacts to resolve a single issue;
  • Missing, incomplete, inaccurate or irrelevant information;
  • Imbalances between demand and capacity (bearing in mind that unused capacity in a service context cannot be stored as inventory and hence is lost forever); and
  • Customers not receiving what they wanted when they wanted it, and then switching to other suppliers (often online, at the click of a mouse).

In recent discussions with public sector managers, reviewing the positive and negative impacts of the former Labour Government’s reform agenda for public services, we have discovered two broad categories of waste that seem highly relevant to the current debate about central control versus local autonomy, quasi-markets versus co-ordinated planning and so on. These two categories are Complacency Waste and Competition Waste. They are essentially polar opposites but paradoxically can sometimes be found together.

Please follow this link to download our paper at 11-03-30 A New Typology of Waste.

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