How to deal with motion waste

One of the eight types of waste identified in lean methodology, motion waste is any movement during a work process that does not add value to the customer. This includes actions such as walking, bending, lifting, and reaching that slow down the process and make the task more difficult for the operator.

As Shoplogix’s Martin Boersema explains in this video, motion waste tends to be the most common type of waste in a work cell—but it is relatively easy to correct through continuous improvement initiatives such as kaizen events.

How to identify motion waste

To identify motion waste, observe the work process and take note of any movement that seems to be slowing things down. Maybe the operator has to walk across the shop to read a set of instructions, or they spend several seconds fiddling with a part.

One of the eight types of waste identified in lean methodology, motion waste is any movement during a work process that does not add value to the customer.
One of the eight types of waste identified in lean methodology, motion waste is any movement during a work process that does not add value to the customer.

Ask questions to find out why these extra movements are taking place. Once you determine the cause of the waste, you’ll be able to come up with solutions.It’s helpful to conduct a time study on the work process to find out exactly how long it takes to execute each step. If there is fluctuation in the time it takes to perform a particular task—maybe sometimes it takes 30 seconds, but other times it takes 60 seconds—motion waste might be the culprit.

Common types of motion waste

Types of motion waste vary depending on the work process. In an injection molding cell, for example, the operator may have trouble keeping up with the machine’s production cycle if they have to walk several feet away from their workstation to retrieve the parts they need.

Or perhaps they can still keep pace with the machine, but the seconds they spend walking could be better spent on a task that adds value, such as performing an inspection.

In an assembly cell, where the work is performed manually, the efficiency of the process depends on how easily the operator can carry out each step. Small issues might slow down the work—maybe they have to fiddle with a part to get it to fit inside its nest, or they have to rotate their body to reach the tools they need.

If the workspace isn’t organized efficiently, employees will wind up moving around as they search for missing parts, tools, or information.

If the workspace isn’t organized efficiently, employees will wind up moving around as they search for missing parts, tools, or information.
If the workspace isn’t organized efficiently, employees will wind up moving around as they search for missing parts, tools, or information.

How to reduce motion waste

In many cases, motion waste can be reduced by making necessary equipment more accessible to the operator. This might mean replacing a large cabinet with a tool cart that can be wheeled closer to the operator’s workstation, or perhaps substituting a large bin with several smaller bins so that the operator doesn’t have to reach far inside to retrieve the part they need.

To eliminate motion waste related to searching, it’s important to ensure that all equipment is stored in the right place and properly labeled; there should also be an effective communication system in place. Visual management is a lean technique that can help with this.

Other types of bottlenecks will require their own targeted solution. If an operator is struggling to fit a part inside its nest, the nest might need to be redesigned for a better fit. If an operator has to manually insert a part at one end of a machine and then eject it at the other end, it might be worth examining whether one of those tasks can be automated.

In many cases, motion waste can be reduced by making necessary equipment more accessible to the operator.
In many cases, motion waste can be reduced by making necessary equipment more accessible to the operator.

How motion waste impacts employees

Employees who have to make a lot of unnecessary movements while performing a task often experience fatigue, sore muscles, and sometimes even injury. Some people may not realize the extent to which excessive movement affects them; they might think that a second or two of bending or lifting isn’t a big deal.

However, when solutions are implemented to reduce motion waste, most employees notice that they are less tired, especially at the end of the work week.

To eliminate motion waste related to searching, it’s important to ensure that all equipment is stored in the right place and properly labeled
To eliminate motion waste related to searching, it’s important to ensure that all equipment is stored in the right place and properly labeled

Part of continuous improvement is training employees to spot motion waste and working together to find the right solutions, but it’s also essential to educate managers about the problem.

Ultimately, they will be the ones implementing the improvements that will make a significant difference in their employees’ quality of life.

Martin Boersema

About Shoplogix

With its industry-leading smart factory platform, Shoplogix helps manufacturers reduce operating costs and maximize profitability by unlocking hidden production performance improvements. Headquartered in Oakville, Ontario, the company has an international presence, with offices around the globe.

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Julien is Flexpipe’s president and co-founder. He came upon lean manufacturing in 2006 and launched Flexpipe in 2010. His mission since then has been to introduce the modular system to new markets by making it affordable and accessible.