Matt Hrivnak

Kaizen: There's always another future state

“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.”

– Shigeo Shingo (Toyota)

I’ve decided to start posting some of my favorite Lean related quotes to help pass the message on.  Now, some of these are from recent years while others go back to the golden age of Mass-Production-Only manufacturing, i.e. the Before Lean or Old Testament of manufacturing. This one is from the man, the myth, the legend Shigeo Shingo. 

For those of who are unfamiliar with him, he’s the famous Industrial Engineer brought into Toyota in the 1950s by the great Mr. Taiichi Ohno who had heard of Mr. Shingo’s influential and successful seminars on methods of manufacturing.  In the years following, Mr. Shingo introduced the ideas behind such great concepts as Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) and Poka-yoke (i.e., mistake proofing).  Here’s the quote:  “The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.”

What can I say? He was right.  Whether you look at this from a manufacturing perspective or even a lifestyle perspective, eventually you have to recognize that he was spot on.  This quote is very straight forward, but carries a significant message.

I often refer to this quote to point out that this is really the 8th type of waste left out by Ohno’s 7 Wastes (Overproduction, Defects, Transportation, Waiting, Inventory, Unnecessary Motion, Overprocessing/rework).  Waste that goes unnoticed can quickly multiply into bigger problems that manifest themselves at inopportune times; often, this occurs months or years after the birth date of this unseen waste.  Waste is like a cancer.  It’s there the whole time, but sometimes just can’t seem to notice it.  In some cases, it’s because a person does not want to see and acknowledge the waste.  Other times, they simply can’t see it; they really don’t understand what waste is and they really can’t recognize it.  In either scenario, you can’t eliminate or fix something that is not known to exist.

Now think about that in a manufacturing setting.  No matter how you slice it, waste is waste.  Many a times, before a company is exposed to Lean the waste is rampant and the management has no idea of all the money they are letting waste away (no pun intended).  This also means that the majority of the people working under these managers can’t see the waste either. In the end, this simple idea of hidden waste evolves into a much deeper issue for me.  The more and more I think about it, the more my mind moves towards striving for continuous and sustainable improvement.  What wastes do I see at work everyday?  What wastes do I see in my life everyday?  Moreover, how can I get rid of these wastes and make everything perform better? So, look around you.  Find the most dangerous kind of waste.  Eliminate it and improve.


“The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize.”

– Shigeo Shingo (Toyota)

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Comments (1) Posted by matt on Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

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