Identify Opportunities to Eliminate Wasted Motion

Along with wasted time and material, wasted motion is a key target for lean operations.

The work done in our plants of building pallets and fence, sawing wood and operating lifts and loaders is demanding. When the day is done, our teammates have handled thousands of pounds of material, driven thousands of nails and moved many thousands of feet of material.

It makes sense to look at how we do things and cut down on wasted motion.

You may not know this, but I’m a bit of a klutz. When it comes to figuring out a way to perform a physical task, I choose the least effective way to do it. Every time. Without fail.

My clumsiness is a fascination to those of you who are more gifted with dexterity. You watch me, shaking your head at how inept I am. Then, you show me a better way.

Some folks are wired to see the best way to do things. Many are not.

We need to have those of you who are gifted at building efficiency to constantly review the way we do our tasks and make modifications. We also need those of you gifted at this to work to teach the less gifted how to move about.

Wasted, awkward motion causes more physical strain than necessary. Finding ways to position our bodies and to limit bending and lifting limits the risk of injuries.

Wasted motion can cause bottlenecks.

Wasted motion with our forklifts and trucks add costs as we use more fuel and run longer hours.

In lean, we encourage folks to stop and really see what is happening. Then to ask why the thing that is happening can’t be done a better way.

Whether it is material, time or motion, you’re in a unique spot to identify opportunities to add value by eliminating waste. Thank you for your efforts. Let’s keep making progress.

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Posted in: Improvement, Lean

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  1. hamner2013 September 19, 2013


    I flew from Baltimore to LAX (5.5 hours) in the middle seat of a Southwest airlines plane this week. Too cramped to get much work done, so I started talking and frankly, listening.

    Sitting next to me was Laura, a charming Hispanic woman born and raised on Catalina Island, CA who is a route truck driver for UPS. Laura is a working single mom with a daughter at the University of Arkansas. She told me that she had been driving for UPS for 26 years and most of it along the same route in the Huntington Beach, CA area. She has been on a waiting list for 13 years to change to a long-haul over-the-road route, but those positions are highly coveted and she doubts she get one before retiring in four years.

    Laura makes 140 deliveries on average, every day. She knows everyone along the route on a first name basis. She mainly drops off shipments, but also does pickups. At key points on the route, she will park her truck in a strategic position and make up to 25 separate deliveries, before moving to another spot to make another series of drops. Some deliveries require up to a quarter mile walk along long piers that jut out into the Pacific Ocean.

    Laura was wearing expensive running shoes on the plane and is in great physical shape – she told me that she has run multiple marathons. As good as she is at what she does, she said that a few years ago, UPS brought in time & motion analysts to track everything she and the other drivers did on their routes. The goal was to help her find the absolute most efficient way to run the route, where best to park to make deliveries, how best to sort and lift the packages, how many drops to make before coming back to the truck, how to actually lift and stack the packages on the dolly and insider her truck… essentially every minute detail from the time her shift started to when it ended was measure, catalogued and analyzed. I was surprised me to hear her say that she actually appreciated the insight/coaching gained from the exercise and found that it helped her to be even more productive, something one would not necessarily expect from a card carrying union truck driver. However, her compensation is tied in part to her productivity, so she embraced the assistance and measurement program as it allowed her to get even better at what she does and to make more money.

    After reading your piece today, (and I like the do-it-yourself approach), I could not help but wonder if UPS would loan Pallet One some of their analysts for a week or two? Maybe they used a consulting firm to staff the study and would share the name of that firm with you. It would be interesting to hear how a study like that might pay off. – PFH

    Patrick F. Hamner


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