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More Out Less In (Productivity Leaders at the Target Open Day)

Posted On - 05/08/2016 07:57:43

What's the difference between efficiency and effectiveness?What's the difference between efficiency and effectiveness? Could it be one's about doing things right and the other's about doing the right things? Or how about one's a measure of the other? Perhaps one's about the ratio of inputs to outputs and the other's about quality? We could go on but whichever it is one thing's for certain: productivity matters...

To the bone

How do you like your steak? Or pork, or even chicken for that matter? If you're a veggie how much oil do you like in your food? Now while some try and avoid it others like a little - it adds flavour. But whichever you are – carnivore or vegan – no-one likes their food fatty.

What's this got to do with productivity? Everything.

Excess oil and fat in cooking are waste. If you're cutting it off or spooning it away they simply weren't needed. Worse, you wasted time adding them and energy cooking them. Turns out they're not just waste, they create more. And if you're rejecting anything you cook that's inefficient and unproductive.

The piano's on my toe

Now, we all know being healthy means cutting off fat and using less oil. Issue is if you're trying to cut down – trying to make changes you can keep to - then there's more to this than just using a knife and measuring jug. You have to do things you can keep to. You have to make the change maintainable.

You have to be organised. You have to go about it methodically. You have to systematically remove the fat. Where are we going? Well, so it is with Lean Manufacturing. If you haven't heard of it before it's a philosophy from Japan. And it's a structured approach to removing the ‘fat' from manufacturing.


As the name suggests Lean Manufacturing was born in factories. So it's relevant to those of you who build computers. But it can also be applied to any process – they all encourage waste. So computer repairs or even paperwork and administration – Lean can be applied to them all.

What's interesting is how you get to be Lean. Because it's not about doing more added-value, it's actually the opposite. It's all about systematically eliminating waste. And while that may sound back-to-front, it's proven to work. If you focus on the things that cause waste, the result is you improve quality, shorten lead times, reduce costs and end up adding more value.


If you're into Lean you'll know there are seven types of waste. Scrap is just part of one category. Others include moving things around that don't need it. Work in progress that isn't. Waiting. Doing jobs better than needed. Fixing stuff you didn't get right first time. Pretty obvious yeah? But as clear as these are there's a problem. They're not the job.

Let's face it, when you're building or fixing a computer are you thinking about how many times you pick-up and move things around, how much time you're working on other things, waiting for parts or a call back from the customer, fettling and cleaning stuff no-one other than you is ever going to see, testing components that should have worked together but don't, or waiting for a delivery that's late or gone to the wrong address?

That's why Lean works the way it does. It forces you to think about the stuff you normally don't.


Lean isn't just an ideal; it's a practical set of tools. Standard techniques and templates that help identify and eliminate waste. There's several: Kanban, Poka-yoke, value stream mapping, SMED (single-minute-exchange-of-die) to name a few.

And while all these could help you become more productive, they're perhaps more relevant to volume manufacturing. The kind you get in a car plant or biscuit factory. When it comes to smaller scale, specialist manufacturing and maintenance work other techniques grow in importance. And the one we want to talk about is 5S.

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