Energy Management and Lighting, Maintenance and Operations, Sustainability/Business Continuity

No Time to Waste: 4 Steps to Eliminate Invisible Waste from Your Facility

Facilities are under constant pressure to minimize production waste and lower operational costs. They employ different techniques and innovative strategies to identify and eliminate these wastes without lowering the quality of products and consistency of established production routines—one of the used strategies is lean manufacturing.

Facilities grapple with several invisible wastes arising from obsolete technologies, ineffective production assets, excess stock, manual workflow and asset management, non-value add routine tasks, and small process and equipment variances that increase waste tolerance.

Hidden waste increases energy consumption across the facility, lowers equipment efficiency, and causes a spike in waste quantities—raising facility operations and maintenance costs.

What strategies can facilities adopt to identify and sustainably reduce invisible waste? Why must they prioritize the reduction of invisible waste?  

Automate Production Processes

Manual workflow and asset management are prone to several errors and delays that negatively affect productivity while increasing hidden waste:

  • Manual facility management requires plenty of paperwork which takes time to prepare, approve, file, and analyze.
  • Individuals may fail to capture production and facility maintenance records accurately. 
  • Other manual records may get lost as they move between departments for approvals, causing further delays or deferring maintenance activities.

Facilities can leverage several digital technologies to automate routine activities—a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to automatically schedule and track the maintenance of several assets in a facility or an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to plan demand and optimize stock levels. 

These solutions store plenty of data vital for streamlining several facility audits and improving processes. Automation reduces human errors and standardizes data management across the facility. 

Facility managers periodically evaluate data from the different digital solutions to track maintenance and production patterns and their effects on energy consumption, facility safety, and product quality. They utilize the data to devise procedures or methods for controlling and reducing hidden waste.

Streamline Inventory Management

Inventory waste is not limited to damaged raw materials or defective finished products—it also includes excess stock held by the facility. The company is forced to dedicate additional resources to protect excess inventory from damage, theft, and risks like fire. 

Some stock items are hazardous and must be kept in secure premises, demanding the installation of sophisticated security systems as well as temperature and pressure control devices. These additional utilities consume energy and require prompt inspection and maintenance to guarantee the safety and security of idle inventory.

Facilities should rely on market-driven insights to predict the maximum and minimum stock levels required to sustain daily productivity. Managers can leverage historical asset maintenance data in the CMMS database to identify frequently required repair parts and production scheduling data to define safe stock levels.

With the relevant data, facilities can acquire sufficient stocks and eliminate the need for extra storage space and inventory management utilities—freeing more cash and reducing the risk of obsolete and damaged stock while availing adequate supplies in time for maintenance and daily production.

Reduce Overprocessing

Some hidden facility wastes emanate from duplicated processes or poorly designed floor layouts and processes. Other production assets bear unergonomic or inaccurate designs that increase production cycles and cause a spike in process waste, with finished products having hidden defects. 

Such production assets may permit certain degrees of variances that further compound hidden waste. Overprocessing can also arise from poorly designed communication channels, wrong equipment automation, and unstable production schedules.

Facilities can reduce such waste by clearly mapping production processes and designing layouts to guarantee optimal continuity and hierarchy of activities—while eliminating duplicate or similar production tasks. Equipment manufacturers should use the correct automation technologies and reduce variances and part tolerances that increase production defects and waste.

Also, facilities can leverage digital technology for cross-departmental collaboration and communication. It ensures real-time information dissemination among decision-makers and timely communication of production schedules, demands, and work practices geared at reducing or eliminating waste.

Implement a Proactive Maintenance Program

Facilities often fall off schedules when maintaining assets—they require preventive and corrective maintenance to keep them in perfect working conditions. Properly maintained assets consume less energy and are safer to use. 

Simple tasks, like lubrication, can save thousands of dollars annually in energy costs, yet some facilities fail or delay performing such tasks. It can be due to a lack of a reliable maintenance strategy or a lack of technology to manage multiple assets.

Establishing a proactive maintenance program can eliminate multiple invisible wastes. These programs, predictive or preventive, increase the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and prevent costly breakdowns that can damage machinery, facilities, and items on the processing line. They also reduce part variances, misalignments, and vibrations that can increase production defects and waste.

Facilities should establish effective maintenance strategies and invest in relevant maintenance management technologies. That will ensure timely, accurate, and consistent maintenance of all assets for predictable energy consumption, comprehensive root-cause analysis, and elimination of process bottlenecks.

Final Words

Facilities should look beyond lean manufacturing in their push to reduce production waste. Invisible waste causes an increase in operational costs since defective machinery and ineffective processes raise the demand for energy utilization. 

Companies should select relevant digital technologies based on the size of their facilities and the intensity of process wastes. They should continuously audit processes, equipment, and standard operating procedures to combat invisible waste that previous strategies cannot eliminate.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.