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Where’s the waste?

Facing pressure to reduce costs and improve productivity, a leading construction and services group wanted to increase the number of service inspections completed each day by their engineers. The company had three main clients, all well-known UK mobile phone companies – and engineer tasks included repair and routine maintenance of mobile phone base stations.

Lean 6-Sigma Gemba Walks were employed, with senior company leaders accompanying the service engineers in order ‘to be at the Real Place, to see the Real Thing, to Understand the Real Fact and Address the Real Problem’. The leaders were asked to categorise their observations as ‘Value Add’, ‘Necessary Waste’ and ‘Pure Waste’. In a separate activity, the engineers were asked to complete a record of the time taken to complete each task.

The data thus collected allowed for identification and elimination of ‘Pure Waste’, such as when service engineers had to waste time waiting for a key-holder – or where a skilled engineer was required to collect parts from a supplier, instead of using his key skills for maintenance and repair work. In addition, engineers were allotted the completion of six tasks per day – with the overall result of improved productivity, enhanced time-saving and increased revenue generation.