Downtime or Tim Woods: Signs of a Waste Walk in Progress


Waste. . . something we've heard from an early age, and throughout the stages of life.
“Don’t waste your food,” said all parents everywhere.
“Waste not, want not,” an American idiom
“A man who dares waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Charles Darwin
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” Kurt Cobain.
It seems like everyone has something to say about Waste. So, when we say, a company can benefit from a Waste Walk . . . what do we mean?
First, it’s important to understand just what a waste walk is in the context of manufacturing. The purpose of a waste walk is to gather information about the work process, the work areas within which it is performed, and any instances of waste that is observed. Typically, the waste walk is conducted by experienced lean practitioners who can offer a fresh perspective to manufacturers and illuminate opportunities for improvement. In many cases, opportunities that are often overlooked because “it’s the way we've always done it.”
And what, exactly are those experienced lean practitioners looking for? Why Waste, of course, but what do we mean by that? There are a couple of good acronyms for that...There’s DOWNTIME and TIM WOODS. . . depending on your personality and preference.
The DOWNTIME acronym captures the 8 wastes in a very effective manner. Typically, when observing a pre-lean manufacturing process, we find that 95% of what's observed is non-value added time. Time, that if better utilized, could lead to a competitive advantage by getting finished product into the hands of customers sooner - and at a lower cost to you. For a shop in the midst of lean implementation, a waste walk can promote dialogue among employees and celebrate gains that have already been made. This collaboration is important in maintaining employee engagement and momentum in achieving the ideal future state. 
As for my 'friend' TIM WOODS, the same wastes as above are identified, with the shift from 'extra processing' to over processing and adding S for Skills as in wasted skills. Some people are just better with names and faces.
Regardless of the acronym of your choice, the idea is to utilize the waste walk as a motivator to action. As an initial step - it can open the eyes of employees new to the company or new to lean - to potential improvements. As an intermediate step - it can identify improvements and highlight future steps. And, as a final review, it can solidify your progress and help move your organization beyond the low-hanging fruit of process change and initial work cell organization into more comprehensive changes to encompass your entire organization.
For more information on our lean business solutions or to schedule a waste walk at your facility, please contact us at 888-414-6682 or via email at 

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at


Categories: Continuous Improvement, Lean Principles