By Sunil G. Wijesinha
TIMWOOD is an acronym for the famous Seven Wastes identified by Toyota, presented in a user-friendly manner by Taiichi Ohno, the then Chief Engineer at Toyota. They are the basics of what we learned in industrial engineering under ‘Method Study’, where every activity was sorted under Operation, Delay, Transport, Inspection and Storage.
The first step in Method Study, after defining and analysing an activity, was to reduce and eliminate all delays, transports, inspections and storage on the premise that none of them add value to a product or service, but add to the costs. It became a worldwide hit when Toyota pronounced it in a format that any layman could understand.
TIMWOOD Seven Wastes Transport – Any transport of material, machines/equipment or people is non-value-adding. Some amount of transport is unavoidable. However, an experienced industrial engineer can, at a glance, determine whether the workplace is well organised or not. Some factories I visit seem incredibly busy but it is because people and material are moving all over the place. It cannot be a high productivity factory. In some cases, the bad layout is obvious and I have pointed out many areas where transport labour can be cut down simply by relocating machines and changing the layout. In other cases, it is not that obvious and closer recording of movements may be required.
A classic example is when Osu Sala first commenced operations in the early 70s. Prescriptions were handed over to a counter near the entrance. The pharmacist gives the customer a number and goes all the way to the room right at the back where it is entered in a register and he comes all the way back to the counter. This is repeated throughout the day. He has to also go occasionally and bring the drugs to the counter as well. When the Institute of Work Study studied this, it was found that the pharmacists were walking several miles a day. This may have been good for their health though.
The institute recommended a very small change. The counter was shifted close to the room and an opening was made in the wall separating the counter from the room. The pharmacist sat at the counter, accepted the prescription, tuned around and placed the prescription in a revolving tray in the wall opening, where it went straight to the person entering the register. The drugs came back the same way and picked up by the delivery counter adjacent - a very simple change but a huge improvement in productivity.
Inventory – Toyota was the first to reduce inventory holding to less than a day. Inventory is a hidden cost which only accountants realise. Production and showroom people alike prefer high inventories, not realizing the cost of inventory. My usual policy is to include an inventory factor in any incentive scheme even for showrooms. While in a routine manufacturing process the greater proportion of items will need to be under stock control, where minimum stocks are kept, it is not necessary for all office supplies.
I have seen many examples of slow moving and non-moving stocks, unwanted raw material because the formula has changed, obsolete forms, obsolete ink cartridges and similar items in stores. Working as Industrial Engineer at the then Sri Lanka Tyre Corporation, I remember we had huge engineering stores. In my first visit to Japan, I used to always ask to see the engineering stores during factory visits but got blank looks. They have a couple of cupboards where all needed spares are kept. Obviously we need more space because we import all the spares but we often overdo it. It is the same with work-in-process and finished goods.
Motion – There are many guidelines on how to design work to use the least of body motions. Principles of Motion Economy are standard guidelines. Frederick Taylor was one of the pioneers who in his famous exercise in a steel mill determined better ways of shovelling. Frank Gilbreth is well-known for having broken down bricklaying into a multitude of motions and coined the term ‘Therbligs’ (the reverse of his name) to each minute human motion. If analysed scientifically, we could reduce the labour content by reducing, hand, feet, head, body and eye movements.
Waiting – Waiting for components from the previous process and waiting for documents from the previous process are all waste. In a factory or even in an office, work balancing can reduce a lot of waiting time.
Over processing – This is where you process more than necessary. This is related to ‘value engineering’. The value of any product or service consists of two components - the functional value and the esteem value. If the incremental cost of processing is more than the incremental value it generates, it is a waste.
Overproduction – Producing more than the order at hand is overproducing. This can happen if you are unsure whether there would be rejects at final inspection. So you produce more. This is an easy way out for production people, rather than ensuring a higher quality yield. Sometimes your margins could be severely eroded by this waste.
Defects – This is obvious. In some industries, defects can be repaired or reprocessed. In some cases, reprocessing can take place in the early stages of production but nevertheless it is a waste.
An eighth waste was added later - the waste of unused talent. This is very relevant in Sri Lanka too. We do not use the full potential of our employees. We do not let them unleash their creativity.
Later on, TIMWOOD was expanded to CLOSED MITT, which stood for waste due to/of Complexity, Labour, Overproduction, Space, Energy, Defects, Material, Inventory, Time and Transport. Most are covered under TIMWOOD. The others are as follows:
Waste of Complexity – Manufacturing or carrying out office work in a complex manner. A good example that comes to my mind is the joke that Americans were busy trying to design a pen that would work in zero gravity, while the Russians used a pencil.
Waste of Labour – Where the labour content itself could be reduced through scientific Method Study.
Waste of Space – Space is becoming a constraint now. During our course in Japan in 1980, we visited the Keio University and 14 years later, when I called on my old professor, he pointed out that now his room is half of what it used to be, two professors now use it and it still looks spacious. Better layouts can reduce space in offices and factories. Closer home, during the restructuring of Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka we gave up several floors, redesigned the space and still had a comfortable working environment.
Waste of Energy – When energy is cheap we tend to waste it. In Japan, after the energy crisis of 1973, they became extremely conscious of energy. In 2005, they started the ‘cool biz’ policy, where thermostats were set to 26 degrees Celsius in summer. Full formal attire was done away with. One Japanese head of an international organisation found that Sri Lankan hotels were very cold and remarked “electricity must be cheap here”. In factories, many of the old machinery and processes consume much more energy than the modern ones.
Waste of Material – Sometimes the material cost is very significant but factories seem to focus more on labour productivity. There is scope to review even the material used to see whether alternative material is possible, scope to prevent waste, better utilisation and less spoilage.
Many of these wastes can be reduced with the participation of employees. In my first programme in Japan in 1980 on Industrial and Systems Engineering, one of the lecturers asked us, “What is the most important role of an industrial engineer?” The answer was, “Teach the simple productivity techniques to all employees.” If these wastes our surfaced and all employees taught remedial methods, all such wastes could be minimised if not eliminated altogether. We need more waste consciousness.
(Sunil G. Wijesinha is President, Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Quality and Productivity)