Do You Know Where Your Company is Going?



worker.jpgIn any organization, if you do not know how you are performing, there is no way to know where you’re going. This is where Lean waste walks come in.

A waste walk is a high-level assessment of the knowledge and maturity of an organization’s Lean production systems. It examines where your performance stands compared to where it could be, and then introduces an anticipated future state, creates a strong expectation to improve and indicates where to go next.

Why Are Lean Waste Walks Necessary?
Comprehensive assessments such as this are critical to finding success in any change program. Companies looking to continuously improve practices, enhance productivity and reduce waste in a certain area should perform waste walks. This is the first step on the road to making improvements.

The purpose of the waste walk is to gather information about the work process, the work areas in which it is performed and any instances of waste. During a waste walk, each area is physically observed to gain a better understanding of efficiency and flow of the work. Ideally, all levels of a company are engaged in waste walks to ensure improvements in operational performance will follow. When performed correctly, waste walks motivate actions and support company-wide improvements.

Complete the Waste Walk, Run with the Results
Waste walk assessments can be powerful, but only if deployed wisely. When creating a plan of action for waste walks, companies must decide what will work best for them. Critical questions should be answered beforehand, including at what level of detail you will stop, and how the audit should be organized.

For manufacturers who have just started their Lean journey, the waste walk can seem overwhelming. In this situation, the assessment does not need to be so comprehensive. A more generic assessment of Lean maturity is adequate at this level, and can still be helpful in generating positive dialogue among team members while creating the desire to improve operations.

For manufacturers with experience in Lean, improvements should be sought based on a more comprehensive Lean assessment. A full assessment of Lean maturity can be qualitative, quantitative or both.

Regardless of where you are on your Lean journey, waste walks are most successful when conducted by experienced Lean professionals. Often, this perspective illuminates previously unseen opportunities. Once the waste walk is completed, the company will receive an executive summary report, which contains comprehensive area-by-area evaluations, a benchmarking percentile radar chart, which represents where your company’s performance stands in relation to others, as well as recommendations for action and/or improvement.

The most important part of completing a waste walk is acting upon the results. The results of the assessment mean nothing if the facility does not move forward with changes. With all these best practices in place, waste walks can ensure your company not only survives, but succeeds and grows in the future.

To learn more about how The Center’s Lean experts can assist in your Waste Walk Assessment, click here. Combined with The Center’s Transformation Planner, these tools can launch any company toward their goals of operational excellence.


Tomlinson_R.jpgRoger Tomlinson, Lean Program Manager
Roger has been a Program Manager at The Center for 18 years. He has trained and mentored hundreds of Michigan manufacturers in the entire portfolio of Lean strategies and methods (e.g., Kaizen events, Standardized Work, 5S/Workplace Organization, Value Stream Mapping, Total Productive Maintenance, Culture Change, Team Building, Operations Management and Process Re-Engineering). In addition to his training and consulting work, Roger has more than 20 years of experience in manufacturing management.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed 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: Lean Principles